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In Honor of Our Nurses - Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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In Honor of Our Nurses – Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In Honor of Our Nurses – Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic September 16, 2020
Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Jose Morales

Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
From Left to Right: Tina Ewart, MSN, RN-BC, Frank Miranda, NT, Angela Errico, BSN, RN & Valery Fosse, BSN, RN.

NEW YORK – As many of you know, besides having a career in Visual Communications and Photography, I am also a Registered Nurse. It is a career in which I have remained active for over ten years. It is the career that shaped me as a person and as a human being. My experiences as a nurse are memories I hold close to my heart—especially experiences with patients or fellow colleagues.

When the Covid-19 outbreak started, I immediately contacted my colleagues and friends who still work in the frontline. As I listened to their stories, working for one of New York City’s busiest hospitals (and where I worked for eight years), I felt it was vital for me to honor their work, and share their stories and thoughts of what is happening with the rest of the world. I am honored to call these incredible individuals not only my colleagues but also my friends.

Thank you for all you have done for our city. And, thank you to all the frontline workers around the world.

YOU ARE HEROES.

Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tina Ewart, MSN, RN-BC

Tina Ewart, MSN, RN-BC

  • Can you share with us about your background in nursing?

I have been a Registered Nurse (RN) for almost 14 years. I worked as a staff nurse for six years before transitioning to Nursing Leadership and management, as that was where my passion was leading me. I have a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN), and I am also a Medical-Surgical Certified RN. I currently manage a 30-bed medical-surgical unit where care is provided to pre/post-surgical and medical patients.

  • Being a Nurse Executive Manager for a very complex unit in one of New York City’s most well-known hospitals, what was most important to you in order to lead your team through the challenges presented by Covid-19? 

As a nursing leader, the safety of your patients and your staff is a top priority. As a human being in this field, you must quickly learn to adapt and take action to protect those under your care and leadership and who work in your unit, from the nursing staff to doctors and physician assistants, to housekeeping and support staff. I had to ensure that the unit kept running effectively and that it had adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N-95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves, and disinfecting wipes. My priorities have also been ensuring that team members take their breaks to replenish themselves and that the patients and their families are supported through this emotionally.

  • What has been the most challenging aspects, personally and professionally, of being in the frontline during this pandemic?

Personally, the biggest fear was getting Covid-19 myself and exposing it to my family. Professionally, lack of resources such as not having adequate PPE. At times, the challenges presented by Covid-19 made me question my abilities and position in the scheme of it all. It hit hard watching patients succumb to the disease, and family members unable to visit their loved ones during the crisis. Also, seeing some of my staff contract the disease, spreading it to their families, and losing coworkers to Covid-19 has been challenging…

  •  What has kept you motivated throughout these challenging times?

I have the highest respect for the team I lead. The resilience of my nursing team drives me and reminds me daily of the importance of our role in the health field. Seeing our patients recover with the assistance of the care we have provided is our biggest motivator and keeps us going. Overall, my love for nursing has kept me strong since I know my team and I made a difference in our patients’ lives. Additionally, the support I receive from my family, friends, coworkers, and patient’s families, and the community have been a great source of motivation. 

  • How do you feel Covid-19 has changed our perspective of life? 

Life is so fragile. I have learned that I should not take anything for granted and tell the people I care about how I feel and forgive those who have wronged me. To Love every moment and do the things that make me happy. To live to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I feel many people in this world have now realized the same.

  • As a nurse leader, how do you feel nursing will change in a world post Covid-19? 

I feel nurses have finally earned the respect we deserve in healthcare and society. Nursing will continue to evolve. We have a wealth of knowledge to share and are very resourceful. Nurses must be utilized to their fullest potential and be more involved in research. This will allow us to be more autonomous and perform at the highest capacity within our scope of practice.

Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Valery Fosse, BSN, RN

Valery Fosse, BSN, RN

  • Can you share with us a bit about your background in nursing?

Before immigrating to the United States, I had a master’s degree in chemical engineering. When I came here, I decided to change my career, and healthcare appealed to me the most. I started my career as a home attendant. My current employer then hired me as a nurse assistant. While working as a Certified Nurse Assistant, I completed my nursing education and have been a registered nurse for over ten years.

  • How did your day-to-day work-routine change during Covid-19?

I chose this career to make a positive change in people’s lives and be a positive force within the profession. To achieve this, I have followed a meticulous plan through my education and daily practice. Covid-19 shook those plans. You go from a structured, planning mentality to trying to adapt to the unprecedented and unknown quickly. It was like getting prepared to do everything without being trained to do everything.

  • What have been the most challenging aspects of being in the frontline during this pandemic personally and professionally? 

Personally, I think the most challenging aspect was dealing with the fear of getting my family infected. With three kids at home, it was hard. No more dinner together, no hugging or kissing my children. I used to get home and go directly to the bathroom to clean up, with a mask on, without allowing even my wife to give me that welcome hug and kiss. 

I still recall one night I got home, and my 11-year-old daughter told me that she was having difficulty breathing. I locked myself in the bedroom, and I started crying. I did not want to think it was Covid-19, but there was nothing else to you could assume. I started thinking about how many more times I should wash my hands, and who did I care for, and all these other thoughts.

Professionally, the lack of personal protective equipment and a well-established plan of care was both the most challenging aspect. How do you care for someone without proper PPE?

It was hard to digest. We know that PPE should be changed from one patient to another, and when your organization tells you to do otherwise because of the lack of supplies, it becomes quite problematic.

  • What has kept you motivated throughout these challenging times? 

I feel lucky that I decided to pursue a healthcare career based on my love to help people. Like I told my wife one day, I felt like a soldier who could now really prove why I chose this career and what I am capable of. Fortunately, God gave me the strength to get up each day and show my love to all these patients I have cared for.

  • How has Covid-19 changed your perspective about life?

During Covid-19, I saw people coming to the hospital complaining about difficulty breathing, and then suddenly, they were unable to breathe or make it through the afternoon. It suddenly teaches you that tomorrow is not guaranteed or given. Live every day like it is the last one. 

  • What do you wish for people outside the healthcare industry to be aware of? 

Healthcare workers have been traumatized by what they have seen and lived during this pandemic. They are emotionally, physically, and psychologically drained. I would like people outside the field to understand the gravity of the situation and their role in protecting themselves and others and how this, in turn, protects frontline workers. We are in this together. 

Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Angela Errico, BSN, RN

Angela Errico, BSN, RN

  • Can you please tell us about your professional background in nursing?

I have been a Registered Nurse now for eight years. I am currently a Senior Staff Nurse in a Medical-Surgical and Orthopedic Unit. This unit was quickly turned into a Covid-19 Unit when the pandemic first hit.

  • What have been the most challenging aspects of being in the frontline during this pandemic? 

Personally speaking, for me, one of the most stressful aspects of being a frontline worker during this pandemic has been being pregnant in such an unpredictable environment – trying to make sense of the whole situation, the unclear information or guidelines, and the slim amounts of personal protective equipment. The thought of protecting your own family is always on your mind. How do you safely perform your duties with the limited resources at hand and protect your patients, yourself, and your family?

  • What has kept you motivated throughout these challenging times? 

I know this pandemic will not last forever. When I think back to the oath I took -to care for people who need me- I also promised myself that I would always strive to do what I love to the best of my ability.

  • What do you wish for people outside the healthcare industry to be aware of? 

Sometimes, I think of those who do not take this seriously and wonder what they would really think if they were in the frontlines, witnessing the severity of it all. It is draining both physically and emotionally. I wish for them to educate themselves. I continue to reinforce with all I meet how imperative it is to take this seriously. I also reinforce with all how to take proper precautions and the importance of following guidelines to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

Guild Magazine Honoring Our Nurses Heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Frank Miranda, NT

Frank Miranda, NT

  • What can you tell us about your background in nursing?

I have been in the nursing field since 1993 and have worked as a Nurse Technician for the same organization for over 27 years. Much has changed since, but my commitment to the community has never changed: to always provide care with compassion and empathy. My interest in healthcare started at a young age. After completing a Nursing Assistant program, I was contacted by my current employer, asking me if I would be interested in furthering my training from Nursing Assistant to Nurse Technician. I said yes, of course, and it’s a decision I have never regretted. In retrospect, I could have been anything in my life, but I would still be taking care of people no matter the career choice. It’s who I am: a Care Giver. 

  • How did your day-to-day work change during Covid-19?  

When the pandemic started, our unit changed from being an orthopedic unit to the designated Covid-19 floor (with other units quickly needing to follow suit as the situation progressed). The reality of all of this had not fully hit me yet. I meditated on that day and recited an affirmation to myself: “this is what you have trained for all your life.” I tried to create a mindset, which would allow me to do what needed to be done. However, no one was really prepared for what was to come.

It felt like we were all in a true-to-life Syfy movie, a war zone, sort to speak, fighting against a microscopic entity. This thing didn’t discriminate, and it seemed to lurk at every turn. It makes you paranoid, and you question your every move – questioning at every moment if you might have broken processes of prevention, and what did you touch, or didn’t touch.

Additionally, time management went out the window. When you have an entire unit on quarantine, the time it takes to perform your duties triples from patient to patient. It seemed like there wasn’t enough staff to do everything that needed to be done. Many of my coworkers were falling ill due to stress and the virus. The Staffing issues were getting worse in March and April. It’s when we were hit the hardest. A welcomed relief came in the form of traveling RNs from all over the country. This was our new normal: working with individuals from all over with one goal in mind, to beat this virus. 

  • What have been the most challenging aspects of being in the front-line during this pandemic?

I have to say the Covid-19 pandemic is the worse thing I have witnessed in my career. When the body count began to rise, and the morgue and refrigerated truck parked outside were full to over-capacity, and we were transporting two bodies on the same stretcher, a new reality hit me: “this could have easily been me.” You are literally stuck in the middle of helping others and protecting yourself at the same time. The hardest part was watching our patients die, and their family members were not allowed to come to be by their side—such a hard reality. You would have to hold a phone to the patients’ ears while their loved ones said their goodbye’s! It’s heartbreaking.

Additionally, dealing with the fear is quite challenging: fear of infecting your colleagues if you have it and are not symptomatic, or infecting your family. It’s a horrifying experience. I think of my wife, and my elderly parents, at the months that went by before I could visit them.

  • What has kept you motivated throughout these challenging times?

My responsibilities to my patients and my colleagues who depend on me have kept me motivated and focused throughout this situation, as well as the love for my wife. I kiss my wife Yesenia every day as I leave for work. She understands my dedication to caring for those in need. She knows that I am doing the Good Lord’s work. 

We have received so many gestures of appreciation from our community. We became “superheroes” from day to night. I don’t consider myself a superhero. As much as I do like the title, in the end, this is what I chose to do as a professional, and what I feel is expected of me by choosing a career in healthcare. We are our brother’s keeper, after all. It has not been easy, as we have suffered many losses. But I show up every day remembering that someone there needs me and that this is my life’s work and calling. I really would like to take the opportunity to thank the community for all the masks and food they delivered to the hospital in support of the staff.

  • What do you feel has been the most important lesson you have learned from your work during this pandemic?

I have to say that in these past few months, I have had the opportunity to work with some truly outstanding professional healthcare workers. Not only RNs, Doctors, Nursing Assistants, Nurse Technicians, or ancillary staff, but also the environmental personnel, housekeeping and people in administration, medical records and admissions. The list is long. Everyone working in a hospital is essential. Sometimes, you forget all the pieces at work as you focus on your duties at hand. I will never take anyone for granted ever again. We are all an intricate part of making the patient’s experience a better one. 

Also, I don’t think this will be the last pandemic we will see in our lifetime. I will no longer turn a blind eye to what happens on the other side of the globe and think it will not affect us here. I hope we all will be more prepared next time. 

  • What do you want for people outside the healthcare industry to be aware of?

Most people, especially outside healthcare, don’t understand what we do and what we deal with. Reading posts on social media with misformation, stating that this virus is a hoax, or encouraging people not to follow precautions such as using masks, is a slap in the face to us healthcare workers. I am kind of done with social media. This new reality also showed a much darker side of humanity, one that doesn’t understand the clear and present danger that is now our new normal and how we depend on each other to get through this.

If you are asked to wear a mask, please wear one. It’s just one way to help slow down the spread of Covid-19. It’s not the first time we have been asked to take precautions against a virus (using condoms come to mind). It’s out of respect for humanity that you are asked to wear a mask. It’s a simple precaution to slow down the spread of a virus. It is not a political statement. It’s your responsibility during these challenging times. I hope the public chooses to do the right thing for humanity. – GM

For more information about Covid-19, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit:

www.cdc.gov

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