Nurse pampers patients on days off by brushing, braiding and listening: ‘It’s a healing thing’

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Patients still can’t believe that ER nurse Brooke Johns will brush and braid their hair without ever glancing at the clock. And all for free.

“It’s usually the little old ladies that try to pay me,” says Johns, 41. “It’s just like, ‘no, no, no, that’s not why I’m here.’ It’s not a business thing. It’s a healing thing.” 

On her days off, Johns returns to Southern Hills Hospital where she works, to pamper patients who are going through some tough times — from post-op recovery to respiratory issues.

Sierra Stein was one of them.

After contracting Covid in 2020 and being hospitalized, Stein had to be re-admitted in July of 2021 for complications from the virus, including numbness in her legs. Stein says she cherished the volunteer visits from Johns.

“That physical touch and that interaction means so much when you’re so helpless and so alone,” said Sierra Stein, a former patient at the hospital.

With pandemic protocols in place, Stein, 25, couldn’t have a lot of family around during her month-long stay. She says simple acts of kindness, such as Johns brushing her hair to remove tangles from being bedridden, became a lifeline for her at a vulnerable time.

“It would just make me feel so loved and cared for,” said Stein, whose health is now back on track.

Johns, who’s been a nurse for about three years, says she’s done hair care for more than a hundred patients since she started volunteering close to a year ago.

As Johns moves from room to room, she knows some people might not feel up to having an extra visitor, while others are craving the interaction. The brushing and braiding is only a small part of her stopovers. She says the real connection comes from spending time with someone and providing support, whether a patient feels like laughing or crying.

“I get to go in and there’s no time clock. There’s no ‘I’ve got to get to the next patient room,'” says Johns. “If somebody needs me for an hour, I can give them an hour. If somebody needs me for 15 minutes, I can give them 15 minutes. There’s freedom in that.” 

Johns, a mother of three teenagers, says she wants to set an example for her kids by serving others and helping alleviate pain. She’s already inspiring Stein, who says she’s interested in pursuing medical school after her own experience in hospital.

“I want to be that change,” says Stein.


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