Nursing Some Sunshine: How This Nurse Brought the Community Together to Brighten a Hospital in Boston

June 01, 2020

Isabel Xue, 16, lives in Massachusetts and is a junior at Middlesex School. She loves journalism and is a chief writer and staff videographer for her school’s newspaper. Isabel also loves creating writing and has written four novels, two of which are self-published. She enjoys working with digital media. She is the president and founder of Mid-Way Hope, a community service chapter. Isabel started her own tutoring business and offered free classes during the pandemic. Additionally, she is a competitive dancer and rising captain of her school dance team. She loves being involved in school and is an active member of her school’s Senate and mental health club. Isabel strongly dislikes tomatoes but is otherwise a fruit fanatic.


Joanne Burke is an assistant nursing director of the obstetrics services at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the top hospitals in New England. Working in the hospital, Burke understood the tough times that her fellow nurses were experiencing due to the pandemic.

“The nurses in my staff have been just incredibly brave,” she said. “And with this pandemic, they’ve been nervous and anxious, not only caring for the patients, but also caring for their families at home.”

Nurses have a lot on their shoulders right now. Burke decided to do something to help support them through this difficult period and spread a little sunshine throughout the hospital. Some encouragement and some sunshine proved to be just what they needed.

With her family and friends eager to help support the nurses as well, Burke organized a project to bring donations to them. It started off with her family and friends dropping off items into bins on her front porch. These included snacks, food, self-care items, candy, and inspirational notes. After receiving these donations, Burke and her family made gift baskets, and Burke delivered these to the nurses. It was a success.

The donations kept on coming in with more of the community in Burke’s hometown getting involved too. Burke expanded her project: what had originally started in her units soon spread to other units throughout the hospital as well.

“I was able to make several baskets for several of the ICU units on the west campus and then several of the COVID units on the east campus,” Burke said. “So I’m very grateful and thankful for all the wonderful donations.”

Having limitless support from the community, Burke hopes to continue these acts of kindness.

“It’s brought a lot of smiles to the nurses and the PCTs in my staff, and the unit coordinators from housekeeping, to even my antepartum patients,” she said. “I continue to just want to spread the sunshine.”

Members of the Chinese community in Burke’s hometown also banded together to participate in this project. Honing in their skills of making Chinese cuisine and having children write sweet inspirational notes, these people joined Burke’s movement to bring more warmth to the hospital. Nan Li, who had contacted Burke and coordinated this act within the Chinese community, says, “as a Chinese community, we already know what’s going on in China [with] our relatives, friends, the whole country…Also the nurses, they are like soldiers in this invisible War. So that’s why we feel it is a calling. We can use our experience to contribute something to these brave people. Also, we all love cooking, and we feel that it’s not burden for us.” The first time Li asked for volunteers in the community, there were more than enough responses on the sign-up sheet. After receiving approval from the hospital and appreciation from the nurses, the community is eager to continue.

Both Burke and Li believe that little deeds can make such great differences. When asked what advice she would give to others trying to help the community during this pandemic, Li said, “When you have somebody in your mind, you [can] make something. Write a beautiful note, and let them enjoy [it]. That’s all. You don’t have to think harder. Sometimes, it’s just at that moment, [they’ll] feel: Oh, I’m so touched.”

Similarly, Burke advised, “Even just the handwritten inspirational notes have been encouraging. It’s been very nice for [the nurses] to read all the words of encouragement that the community has brought.”

Everything started with just a small act. But the meaning behind it–all the love, support, and encouragement–was huge. During cold and stormy times, a little sunshine can bring a lot of warmth.