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Nurse spends her day offs brushing and braiding patients' hair

"Human talking, human touching, it's that connection that we're all hard-wired for," explained Brooke Johns, an emergency room nurse.

Nurse spends her day offs brushing and braiding patients' hair
Image source: Brooke Johns/Instagram

Brooke Johns, an emergency room nurse at Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, is so committed to the well-being of her patients that she even spends her days off looking after them. The 40-year-old, who has been a nurse for two-and-a-half years, volunteers at the hospital on her days off to provide patients with some genuine human connection by brushing their hair and sharing meaningful conversations with those who need it. "I feel like there's something very special about brushing somebody's hair," Johns told Good Morning America. "It's something just relaxing and very connecting."



She elaborated on the subject while speaking to ABC affiliate KNTV, saying: "There's something therapeutic about the human touch, as well. Human talking, human touching, it's that connection that we're all hard-wired for." Johns revealed that she started pampering her patients about five months ago when a friend was in the hospital battling COVID-19. "Her hair was very snarled, she was too weak to brush it out herself and it was something she was very worried about," she said, explaining that since patients are usually laying on their backs in their hospital beds, their movements easily snarl their hair. "So, one of the times I was up there I was able to brush out her hair," she added.



"It took me an hour and a half to brush out her hair," Johns shared. "Then I asked her, 'Do you want me to braid it so that it doesn't get like that again?' And she said, 'Yes.'" Afterward, Johns noticed a significant 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."



Twenty-four-year-old Sierra Stein knows firsthand how uncomfortable and demoralizing long hospital stays can be. She'd spent months in the hospital after she contracted COVID-19 last summer and became paralyzed in her legs. "It was miserable because you couldn't have anyone there," Stein said. "You're isolated, you're lonely. It's a really dark place." Although she was released and eventually regained the ability to walk, she had to visit the emergy room again in July 2021 after experiencing more pain in her legs. There she met her attending nurse, Johns, who sat with her for over 10 minutes, soothed her concerns about long hospital stays, and convinced her to seek additional care.



While receiving treatment, some staff members told Stein about a nurse going around and braiding patients' hair. "They were like, 'Do you want to get your hair braided?' and I said, 'Oh yeah, of course,'" Stein said. "That's when I saw Brooke again." Empathetic human contact from a person who cared made a huge difference to the young woman. "It's such a nice distraction from your illness," she said. "When you're in the hospital your mental health kind of gets shut down. 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."



Johns explained that beyond providing an important level of connection, she goes the extra mile for her patients because we don't know what a person may be going through. "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." Alexis Mussi, Southern Hills' CEO, revealed that Johns' efforts have inspired other nurses to give back in a similar manner. "This past year our care team became the spouse, the family member, the friend, the everything for our patients," Mussi said. "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."


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