In celebration of Black History Month, Mercy Health is spotlighting some of our many colleagues who are contributing to the health and safety of our patients and the communities of West Michigan.
Te’Andrea McDaniel, MSN, RN
Mercy Health Muskegon
Te’Andrea (Tia) McDaniel, RN, has worked with COVID patients throughout the pandemic. Seeing patients die alone at alarming rates has been very difficult and emotionally draining. In order to cope and maintain balance, McDaniel looks for the good things in her life. First and foremost, she feels blessed to be able to go home to her family after her shift. She shares how she is “grateful for the small things.” To maintain her best health, she practices self-care by praying, journaling and taking time for a vacation.
Q: How long have you been working at Mercy Health? What is your area of expertise?
A: I have been working at Mercy Health since 2008.In Cardiac Telemetry,we work with heart and vascular patients — anyone with coronary artery disease. I’ve worked in Cardiac Telemetry for all but two years, when I floated. I began as a patient care assistant (PCA) in Cardiac Telemetry for two years, and in 2010 I got my RN.
Q: Positively or negatively, has your race has impacted your experience as a clinical colleague?
A: Yes, in both positive and negative ways.
Some patients have stereotypical views of what Black people should be like and what roles they should be in. For example, sometimes patients or their family members will ask me to take their tray or empty their trash — and could I get their nurse? And I will say, ‘I will gladly empty your ‘trash or take your tray, but I am your nurse.’ They assume that I’m the PCA or the housekeeper or in food service.
Positive things happen, too. I take my work seriously because God has given me this role as a nurse. I have a spirit of excellence when it comes to patient care, and I think that patients respond to that and may have a different view of Black people when they leave the hospital after I have cared for them.
Q: What or who has been an inspiration to you during your career journey?
A: My introduction to nursing was in high school when I took a nurse aid classes. However, I would have to say that poverty and losing my mother at the age of 14 were my biggest inspirations. Growing up poor is a feeling that I never wanted to experience again. So, I always try to do my best to break that cycle, but more importantly, to make my mother proud of what I was able to become and set the tone for those who come after me.
Q: Would you please share your education and training?
A: I took baby steps. After high school I took one class at a time at Muskegon Community College because I was also working full-time. When my prerequisites were done, I put my name on just about every waiting list for nursing programs. I ended up getting my Associate Degree in Nursing at Westshore Community College. It took about two years for my RN. Later, it took me 13 months to complete my bachelor’s degree at Ohio University. I received my Master of Science in Nursing through the University of Cincinnati. I’m a first-generation college graduate and nurse in my family.
Q: Would you encourage others to consider a career in health care?
A: Yes. Black people are underrepresented in health care and that’s a public health issue. I would encourage others to go into health care because we need our patient population to be able to be honest with us and relate to us. Sometimes I deal with the elderly who are confused. If you think about an old black man or woman in the hospital who may be confused or grew up during segregation — and they are surrounded by all white people — that can make a situation worse. There are times when my colleagues ask me to “go in there and calm the patient down.” I also have patients who are more open with me because I look like them.
Q: How has it been different working during the pandemic?
A: During the pandemic it has been different because I have to be the nurse, the family member, the chaplain. COVID patients have asked me to pray with them, which I do. Because they can’t have visitors and are in isolation, I get things out of my own bag for them or I bring in things they may want, like gum, ponytail holders, floss, etc.
…Caring for COVID patients has been both challenging and rewarding. In the beginning, it was really, really, difficult. I’m not a person to cry at work but there have been days when I would drive home after work and cry in my car before going in to see my family. We didn’t know enough about the virus, and people were afraid to give patients care. I would go into a patient’s room and be in there for hours, with all of that PPE on, mopping floors, removing trash, cleaning tables with bleach, and giving people sponge baths.
About the vaccine…
I am neither all for the vaccine nor am I opposed to the vaccine. People make choices for a reason, and we all need to respect that. However, we can’t ignore the fact that there is a history— such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study that experimented on Black male “volunteers,” and Henrietta Lacks (one of the biggest breakthroughs in medical research), and environmental racism, such as the Flint water crisis — that are legit underlying reasons why many African Americans may or may not trust the medical community and the vaccine. I just don’t think anyone should be shunned or penalized for not getting vaccinated. It is a choice.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers about being Black in America?
A: People should be proud to be Black. It is an honor. We’ve overcome so much and contributed so much. So many people don’t even know who Henrietta Lacks was or the contributions that Black people have made to the world, especially science. I’m praying that things are changing.