Nurse Samantha Roecker’s favorite part of her job — the responsibility — is also her least favorite part.
“I love the privilege of being responsible for something larger than myself and using my skills to help me succeed,” explains Roecker, 30. “Having said that, at times it is emotionally stressful and draining to be tasked with something so large, at times in subpar circumstances.”
To cope, the Philadelphia native turns to a hobby she adopted in 7th grade and has maintained since: running.
Running for a cause
Recently, Roecker also took a step toward effecting change in her profession when she broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in scrubs by about 20 minutes at the 2022 Boston Marathon. Roecker’s time was 2:17.2 (two hours, 48 minutes, 2 seconds). She raced in Moxie Scrubs, which provided her “total comfort,” she says, as she ran to raise awareness and funds for nurses’ mental health in partnership with the American Nurses Foundation’s Well-Being Initiative.
“The idea came when so many of my friends and coworkers had to pivot their roles to support COVID patients over the last few years. Each day there’s a new story about healthcare workers burning out and nurses who have struggled since the start of the pandemic,” says Roecker, who is a clinic nurse in the otorhinolaryngology practice at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at Penn Medicine and a student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Roecker values building relationships with patients and their families, and the feeling of mutual respect among the nursing community. She ran, in part, to honor her colleagues.
“I chose to run in scrubs in honor of those nurses who are struggling. I wanted to remind them that we can do hard things — while also putting a smile on my friends’ faces as I attempted to beat a Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in scrubs,” she says.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do the struggles that come with it. Roecker is continuing to call for greater access to mental health resources for nurses.
“We understand that this job is physically and emotionally demanding, although we did not expect the trauma that was and continues to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roecker says. “Access to mental healthcare is difficult in general; we especially need to find a way to raise awareness and support for the growing population of healthcare workers who have an increased need for mental health resources. I pledge to continue to work on this, and I hope to inspire others to do so as well.”