local nurses serve in NYC during early peak of pandemic
Three friends and local nurses recall their experience at non-profit healthcare system in NYC during early peak of pandemic.
Sidenote—I wish I would’ve videotaped my conversation with Tia and Amanda so you could get a sense of just how passionate and genuine they are about helping others.* When I asked them what made them want to serve in NYC during this time, they told me that when you become a nurse, you take an oath to dedicate yourself to the service of human wellness. Well, these nurses went above and beyond the call of duty, putting themselves in the middle of a pandemic to serve a city that was largely unprepared for a crisis of this proportion.
New York City has been described as a “medical warzone” during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic (a statement I’m told is accurate by each of the women). In fact, more than 4,000 travel nurses went to NYC for a month to try to help the hard-hit city. I sat down with three nurses and friends from Indianapolis who served in a Brooklyn-based non-profit hospital to learn more about what it was really like being a nurse in one of the major hot spots in the country for the disease.
“I knew I needed to serve.”—Amanda
In late March/early April, Amanda watched the coronavirus situation in New York continue to deteriorate. Nurses were being overworked and missing so much time with their families, while more and more patients were needing medical attention. She felt called to serve, but her friends weren’t quite as convinced. And then each contracted Covid-19—within a week of one another.
Their experience with the disease taught them just how brutal it could be—especially for high-risk patients and/or those with pre-exisiting conditions.** So with a new resolve to help the overworked nurses in NYC and care for sick patients, they put in requests for a leave of absence from their local healthcare employer. The requests were denied, but they weren’t deterred. Instead, they quit their jobs to answer the call to serve (talk about faith!).
A nursing recruiting agency placed them in a Brooklyn-based non-profit hospital. With their assignments confirmed to start on April 19, 2020, they packed their bags and headed to NYC—together.
When they arrived in Brooklyn, they unpacked and got settled into their hotel. The hotel was only a short distance to the hospital, so they decided to walk to it and get a sense for what they had signed up for.
“It was chaos”—Amanda & Tia
That first day on the job can best be described as chaos. None of the women was given an orientation to the hospital, but they were instead given a list of patient assignments. (I’m not a nurse, but I was told that not receiving orientation and getting patients your first day on the job is highly irregular.) But the need was great thanks to a hospital filled to the brim with Covid-19 patients needing immediate attention.
Over their combined 3-5 weeks in NYC (Tia was in New York for three weeks, while Amanda and Alex stayed for five weeks), they remember how manic every day was and all of the new challenges they were confronted with.
“The whole hospital was full of Covid-19 patients. The ICU was completely full. At one point we ran out of tube feeds, accident pads, pain medications, sedation medications and even basic supplies like pillows for the beds. Many of the doctors were fresh out of medical school from other countries, so we were dealing the added challenges of language and cultural barriers as well. We had a number of patients lose their battle with Covid-19. I remember vividly the first patient I lost to the disease. I remember feeling helpless even as a nurse at that hospital. We were lacking the basic necessities and medication to try to make him comfortable as he fought the disease. I was very emotional when I returned to the hotel that night. I’m so thankful the three of us were together.”
Not only was the situation inside the hospital chaos, but so were the streets of the city.
“The morgue was literally a tent on the sidewalk in the middle of NYC.”—Tia
They recalled people going to Farmers’ Markets, not wearing masks, not social distancing, a scene they couldn’t comprehend given what they were dealing with inside the hospital.
“All of it was chaos.”—Tia & Amanda
They estimated that they helped care for around 400 patients of all different ages during their time in Brooklyn.
Only a few weeks after they began working in Brooklyn, NYC brought in more nurses. While their assignment at the Brooklyn-based hospital ended sooner than they anticipated, there’s no doubt these women made an incredible impact.
“I couldn’t have done this without Tia and Alex because it was such an emotional experience.”—Amanda
“I’m humbled and grateful to work in healthcare here in Indianapolis where we have access to the resources we need. I’m a better nurse now because of my experience in NYC and having to be creative with limited resources, but I’m incredibly thankful to have access to the resources I need to do my job day in and day out.”—Tia
The experience left the women a bit shellshocked. While dealing with the emotional aftermath of serving in a hot spot during a pandemic, each of the women had to try to find new jobs when they returned home. I’m happy to tell you that each has found a new job with an incredible healthcare system here in Indianapolis!
Their story is so amazing and inspiring that it bears repeating (often). We are so lucky to have these incredible women working in our healthcare system who are so dedicated to their jobs and their patients!
*Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sit down in person with Alex because she was in the midst of planning and marrying her best friend. Congratulations to her!
**At the time of our conversation, Tia still hadn’t regained her sense of taste or smell.
Honestly, this was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done. All I knew/know about Covid-19 in NYC was what I saw on the news. A special thanks to my friend, Rich Pentz, for connecting me to these incredible women—I’m so thankful to have them in our local Indianapolis healthcare systems!