“You know someone’s a nurse, a nurse tech, environmental services, or a doctor, but you don’t really know them outside of the hospital,” he says. “When the people are sitting in that chair, we just start talking. Where you traveled. Where you feel like traveling after this. What you wanted to do. Just anything outside of the work setting. When you can just talk about what you want to talk about, it brings a certain type of togetherness.”
The feeling was mutual, says Ernesto Perez-Mir, vice president and chief nursing officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.
“When I got my haircut I got to have a 30-minute conversation and learn more about him, about his upbringing, how he became a barber, how he worked for the Fire Department,” says Perez-Mir. “As CNO and VP, you don’t get to the personal stories that often. Having conversations with him, with the other people that were present, that’s what made it so beautiful and why something as simple as cutting hair had such a big impact on people.
“During COVID I spent more time at the hospital than at home. This is our working family, and the fact he didn’t charge a penny shows the admiration and support he has for his colleagues,” Perez-Mir adds. “When his shift ended and he would cut hair, there would be a line of people waiting for him.”
Nick says the more haircuts he gave, the more he enjoyed it because of how it made people feel afterward. He said it was like a weight had lifted off their shoulders because the work of caring for COVID patients was stressful, and it was almost as if they had something to look forward to coming to work.
“Cutting hair brought so much bonding and family to the back of that locker room. It was touching,” says Nick, who prides himself on never having missed a shift during the COVID-19 crisis. “I’ll miss that, because I told everybody that after the barbershops open, I’m going to be wrapping it up. I’m still cutting one or two heads every now and then and touching up what we did, but I’m going to miss it.”