Editor’s Note: National Nurses Week is May 6-12, 2021.
By Zandy Dudiak, Communications coordinator
More than 177 years ago, on December 1843, seven Sisters of Mercy arrived in Pittsburgh and founded the first American congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. They visited and cared for the sick and poor in their homes, and quickly became known as the “walking Sisters” for their outreach and service to others.
Just a short three years later, they opened Mercy Hospital, the first permanent hospital in Pittsburgh. In 1983, Mercy expanded to become Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, the network of integrated, community-based health and human services that carries on the tradition of the Sisters today.
Sister Diane Matje, RSM, is one of those remaining connections between the Sisters of Mercy and Pittsburgh Mercy that exist today. Formerly an oncology clinical nurse specialist and palliative care director at Mercy Hospital, Sister Diane is a volunteer with Pittsburgh Mercy who, before COVID-19 hit, conducted trainings for our colleagues in her areas of expertise, particularly palliative care, end-of-life, and ethics issues.
Sister Diane misses that opportunity to be involved with the organization, but more particularly her visits at Outlook Manor and Garden View Manor, where she has offered spiritual support to persons served. Because of her age and underlying conditions, she has followed guidance to remain more isolated because of the coronavirus.
“What can I do besides pray and encourage people to take advantage of the opportunities they have to get the vaccine?” she says.
Not only is Sister Diane a part of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Spiritual Care Team, she serves as secretary of the board of directors of McAuley Ministries, our grant-making foundation. She is pleased that in her role with McAuley Ministries, she has been able to help make the decisions to offer financial support to community partners and organizations during the unprecedented crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic—and make life better for people in the community.
McAuley Ministries focuses its support on the communities originally served by the Sisters—the Hill District, Uptown, and West Oakland. Sister Diane was pleased to hear that some 2,000 people recently received vaccines at a clinic in the Hill District. She is encouraged that stars like singer John Legend and sports figures such as Jerome Bettis have come forward to speak up in favor of vaccination.
Sister Diane received her first vaccination in mid-February and her second Phizer vaccine three weeks later through Allegheny Health Network. She said the process was “as smooth as silk.” All she felt was a sore arm.
“I was expecting side effects,” she says, “but I didn’t have any.”
Given her medical background, Sister Diane has strong feelings about people getting vaccinated, not only for themselves, but for the common good. She has been encouraging a young acquaintance, who is resistant to getting the vaccine, to reconsider.
“I think I can understand where he’s coming from,” she says. “But his hesitancy concerns me.”
Sister Diane has pulled back from suggesting that he get the vaccine rather than nag him about it. She is dismayed when she sees large gatherings of young people, particularly without masks or following mitigation efforts. She is even supportive of efforts to provide monetary or other incentives to people in order to drive up the number of vaccinations.
“If talking to someone I really knew, I’d say, ‘Which would you prefer? Symptoms you can handle with Tylenol or the ICU?’ If we have so many people like that, we can’t get to herd immunity. I totally approve of incentives … whatever it takes.”