Many people are dedicated to their jobs, but Brooke Johns a Las Vegas nurse takes her work commitment to the next level.
Brooke, an emergency nurse at Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, works even during her days off. The 40-year-old heads back to the hospital to render lonely patients with much-needed human connection by brushing out their hair and chatting with them.
Although brushing somebody’s hair may seem like such a simple act, Brooke believes there’s “something very special” about it.
“It’s something just relaxing and very connecting,” she said.
Brooke, who has been a nurse for two and a half years, started this initiative when a friend of hers was admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. Visitors weren’t allowed to see patients with the virus, so their only human contact is with staff.
“Her hair was very matted in the back,” Brooke recalled of her friend’s situation. “She was so weak, and wasn’t able to brush it out herself, so I just said, ‘Do you want me to brush your hair?’”
Since patients are usually lying on their backs in their hospital beds, every movement they make can easily get their hair in tangles.
Brooke said it took her an hour and a half to brush out her friend’s hair.
“Then I asked her, ‘Do you want me to braid it so that it doesn’t get like that again?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’”
After their mini grooming session, Brooke said she instantly noticed a change in her friend’s demeanor.
“She was a different person when I left,” she said. “The thought just popped into my head that if my friend benefitted so much from this, I bet there’s a hospital full of people that need some sort of human connection.”
“We’re all hard-wired for connection. We’re social beings and we need that,” she added.
Sierra Stein, a 24-year-old who contracted COVID-19 last summer, understands this all too well. When she was sick, she became paralyzed in her legs and had to stay in the hospital for a few months to receive treatment.
Sierra described that time as “miserable” because she couldn’t have anyone there.
“You’re isolated, you’re lonely. It’s a really dark place,” she said.
She was later released and regained the ability to walk, but she was rushed to the emergency room in July 2021 due to pain in her legs.
Brooke, who was her attending nurse then, sat with her for over 10 minutes to calm her worries.
While Sierra was at the hospital, staff told her about a nurse going around and braiding patients’ hair. They asked her if she wanted her hair done as well, and she said yes. That’s when she saw Brooke again.
The human contact she got from Brooke provided Sierra with a “nice distraction” from her illness.
“It’s really just amazing that there are fairy godmothers going around in the hospital who actually care and take the time to sprinkle a little sunshine on you. … It makes you feel like you’re at home again,” she said about the kind nurse.
Aside from giving patients that much-needed connection, the Las Vegas nurse said she does this because no one really knows what a person may be going through. It’s her own way of making people feel loved.
“Everybody has a story that will bring you to your knees,” she said. “Life is hard and that’s why I think it’s so important to be kind and patient and spend time with people.”
Other nurses were inspired by Brooke and are now giving back in their own ways. According to Alexis Mussi, the CEO of Southern Hills, the hospital’s other staff became their patients’ spouses, family members, and friends.
“When there isn’t someone here holding that hand at the bedside, it really became our team doing that, so having people like Brooke really helped,” she said.
Indeed, kindness is contagious. And it’s just what the world needs more of.
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