At 10 years old, Emily Worthem loved singing in choirs and acapella groups that performed for residents of nursing homes in Chicago, Ill., where she grew up.
She could not have imagined that seeds planted then would lead her to become a nurse and to a national stage Wednesday to celebrate the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden.
Worthem, 24, was part of the star-studded event “Celebrating America,’’ a virtual concert honoring President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, traditional presidential inaugural balls were not held. Instead, the Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks hosted the virtual celebration, along with stars Kerry Washington, Bruce Springsteen, Eva Longoria, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Demi Lovato and others.
“It’s a huge honor,’’ Worthem said of being included in Wednesday’s sing-along with nurses from across the country who have cared for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. She began caring for COVID-19 patients in March, first in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas and now at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital.
As a young singer in Chicago, Worthem could see how music lifted the spirits of residents in nursing homes.
A few days before Thanksgiving, she wrote a song about what it’s like to take care of COVID-19 patients and the emotional toll that it has taken on her fellow doctors and nurses. The Denver-area media aired Worthem’s story and that exposure led to her being selected to sing Wednesday night.
Caring for COVID-19 patients, she said, has been a demanding labor of love.
“It’s been super stressful, but I’ve really relied on a team of nurses, docs, respiratory therapists – everyone – to kind of get through it together,’’ Worthem said. “I’m really proud of all the efforts of everyone on the team. There’s some super-smart people taking care of COVID patients and I’m super stoked to work with them.’’
Music has always been a form of relaxation and release for her, and a few days before Thanksgiving, in an exercise of self-care, she put her thoughts on paper.
“I wrote this song because COVID is such a huge thing, it’s so new and no one totally understands it, especially at the beginning we didn’t, so I wrote it as a way to process my feelings. A lot of it also came from conversations I was having with co-workers about their experiences with the pandemic so it kind of became a tribute to all of us, that we’re all going through it together,’’ she said.
Though she currently works in an intensive care unit, Worthem believes that one day she may work in a nursing home to help some of the nation’s most vulnerable people.
“I feel like those nursing homes can be pretty lonely places,’’ she said. “I just loved those interactions with that community, and I always wanted to go into a profession where I could help people.’’
On Wednesday night, Worthem joined nurses from around the nation to give do what nurses do best – provide comfort to people.
“I’m absolutely honored and excited,’’ she said.