(NEWS10) — There are women in every part of the Capital Region making their communities a better place. NEWS10 asked you to tell us about these remarkable women and viewers wrote heartfelt letters nominating dozens. This week’s finalist, Rene Kerner always wanted to help people.

“At 10-years-old, I was bandaging my grandmother’s ankle,” she recalled, “and then I was on the rescue squad as a teenager and in my young adult life. I just found nursing important, caring for people is important.”

But never did she imagine how difficult that important job would become during the pandemic. That meant in addition to the challenging work of medicine in her Intensive Care Unit, she had to become a connection to families separated from loved ones.

“COVID has been rough,” Rene said, “it’s been terrible for families, it’s been very hard on healthcare workers. It has really been challenging as a nurse but I go to work every day saying I’m going to help someone and helping them in a different light maybe with Covid,” said Kerner. “We do a lot of Facetime, phone conversations in the room with patients and families because they have to be able to trust that their loved ones are in good hands and that’s not something I ever would have imagined myself doing, you know, three years ago.”

The pandemic also has her questioning how COVID has changed our mental health, leading her to go back to school for her doctorate. “Patients that have gone through covid have post-traumatic stress disorder but also what does that look like for staff members and the community as a whole,” she wondered. “I’m really interested to see what mental health looks like a year or two years from now of patients and families that have dealt with COVID.”

Rene balances work and school with being a wife and mother of two, volunteering with her kids’ activities as well as an after-school program: the Chatham Kids Club. “It’s very rewarding, I love to see the smiling faces of the kids after a hard day just something to look forward to.”