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By Contributor
Posted On Oct 14, 2021

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By: Carlos Lacayo

Brian Paonessa A.K.A Nurse Brian

Brian Paonessa has made a life’s mission of getting nurses the recognition they deserve as the new American Heroes. Based in Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas, Brian decided to create Fit, Functional Nurses (FFN); a company dedicated to giving back to those who dedicate their lives to others before themselves. FFN’s goal is to assist the ever-growing number of burnt-out nurses physically, spiritually, and mentally with recognition, appreciation, and experiences outside the workplace.

In this exclusive interview, Paonessa talks about the inception of FFN, how frontline workers are coping with these strenuous times and whether there will ever be a world where a frontline workers’ job will ever get any easier.

  • What exactly is FFN?

It’s a discount and incentive membership program that recognizes the career of nursing. This pandemic has ignited the necessity to create a program specifically for nurses for what they do. Nursing is a selfless career that has never been truly rewarded in the community until now. FFN partners with businesses such as gyms, restaurants, retailers, travel, local attractions, and everyday companies by providing a discount through a unified membership program. It highlights businesses through advertising on the website to channel it directly to nurses.

  • Tell me about FFN’s inception and what personal experiences led you to create such a concept?

As a nurse for six years now, going above and beyond for my patients as well as my company, co-workers, managers without being acknowledged is very challenging. All the favors that I’ve done over the years seem to have gone by the wayside. When you have nurses that give everything they have and sacrifice their own individual lifestyle and receive nothing in return, it gets old. Not only do you start to lose focus on why you became a nurse, but you lose relationships with people who truly deserve the real you. You start to get into this routine. Work, eat, sleep and repeat. That’s it. After three years into this career, I realized that there has to be something more. Like most of us, we deny that we are at fault. We forget to look ourselves in the mirror and blame other people for why we keep doing what we do.

In 2018, I finally acknowledge that this isn’t the way I want my career to be. It’s the inner voice that kept getting louder and louder. Until, the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to make a drastic change. That’s what I did and haven’t looked back.

Sometimes in life, you have to take that leap of faith. It’s making a decision and going full throttle with it. When you’re at a crossroads and you can either go left or right. You take a deep breath and go. That’s what faith is all about. God can’t guide you if you sit at the stop sign. That’s what let me to the creation of FFN!

  • Throughout the pandemic, the mental health of our frontline workers seemed to match that of the rest of the nation; not very good. To your knowledge, has the frontline worker’s mental health improved at all? And how are frontline workers coping through these strenuous times?

I believe so. Nurses are more optimistic now and ready to get back to normal living again. In retrospect we learned from this pandemic and take nothing for granted when it comes to how precious life can be. Now more than ever nurses have realized their own personal limits. Understanding that burnout can be a real thing. I speak from my own personal experience. As a nurse, you can spread yourself very thinly. Some nurses are very different but for myself, the first thing I start to realize when I’m working a lot of hours it’s either my immune system starts to get weak or I start to lose my patience with people and situations. That’s when you have to take a step back, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I need a break.” As nurses we need rest and that rest can come in many different forms. Whether it be catching up on sleep, eating better, getting to the gym, catching up on house chores, or spending time with loved ones.

  • Do frontline workers feel more prepared for the Delta variant than the original COVID outbreak?

I feel we’re more prepared this time around. Remember when COVID first came out there were a lot of question marks. How do I distinguish a common cold or allergy from COVID symptoms? Is it safe to go to the hospital? Is it safe to go to the doctor’s office? Is it even safe to be out in public? All those things this time around were mostly answered. Mainly due to being prepared and having experience. I’m not going to lie it was a little disheartening because I believe the majority mindset that our nation was on the home stretch of getting over this pandemic.

  • Do you ever see a world where frontline workers won’t be as needed as they are now?

No. You have to understand that – especially in the nursing career – it’s 24/7 and 365 days a year. Hospitals don’t close. They’re open all the time. Somebody has to be there taking care of your loved ones. Whether it’s your brother, your sister, mom, dad, son or daughter. Nurses are on watch all day and all night. I know it’s frustrating sometimes to be that loving family member that wants answers when there are no answers. 10 out of 10 times it’s the nurse who faces the brunt of that uncertainty. We all have to understanding and compassion towards each other. Frontline workers are a very special group of people. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect now and for the future.

  • What’s the future look like for you and FFN?

Very bright! Since I started FFN in April 2021, I’m very blessed and proud to have accomplished the things I have. On behalf of myself, I plan on completing an Ironman next year. I’ve been training countless hours getting myself prepared.

FFN has a very busy upcoming fall season heading into the new year. Very excited to raise money for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation on October 16th! We have a 5K/1-mile walk that we’re having at Town Square Mall in Las Vegas! All the proceeds go towards children with blood cancer and their families. FFN coordinated with Mountain View Hospital to raise $1,700 for the walk already! It’s just a great feeling that FFN has raised awareness especially in Las Vegas regarding nurses and frontline workers. We are gaining momentum every day! Working within the Vegas chamber meeting new people and working with businesses to participate in the program! A big shout out to everyone who has supported me and the future of FFN! ffnworld.com