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Nurses on the Front Lines: “We Chose to Put Others Before Ourselves”

Four nurses across NewYork-Presbyterian reveal the pain, pride, and perseverance that comes with facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

She Made Snack Baskets For Her Fellow Nurses

Nadeen Robinson, Oncology Nurse, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Nursing has granted me some of the greatest joys of my life. But now we’re in a new era, one that nothing could have prepared us for. Life feels like I am riding in the fastest car ever made, and it has just spun out of control. It has not yet stopped, and no one knows how and where it will end.

I am worried about my oncology patients. Luckily, they have all had negative test results. Many of my fellow nurses are caring for patients who are positive for COVID-19. I share their concerns and compassion for their patients and I wanted to support them. So after talking with my friend and fellow nurse, I came up with the idea of making snack baskets for nurses and delivering them to all the other floors. We wanted to do something that would have an immediate impact. Plus, we nurses love snacks.

I immediately sent a message to our 6 Hudson North team, and they jumped on board and chipped in. We made a list in order to limit our time in the stores, collecting all the items quickly and intentionally. When we deliver the baskets, our colleagues are genuinely grateful that we’re thinking of them and they know we’re all in this together.

I am beaming with pride over my colleagues. Here on 6 Hudson North, they have surpassed all my expectations. Their willingness to help the staff on COVID units speaks volumes to their dedication to their profession. I feel gratitude, pride and am honored to say I am a part of a team of inspirational leaders.

She leads 440 Nurses on the Front Lines

Jennifer Tutone, Nursing Director, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

In my 26 years of nursing, I have never seen a situation like this. As a nursing director, I am responsible for 440 staff members. I turned my pediatric team into adult medical/surgical and critical care nurses overnight. They had fear in their eyes, but they never once wavered. Those same nurses are now supporting units across the hospital, if needed. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They had a fear of the unknown and for their own safety, but they never shirked their duties.

While all this is happening at work, I worry about family — mine and those of my staff. I worry about my three children. I change my clothes in our garage so I don’t bring anything into my home that could hurt them. I don’t sleep most nights. I celebrated Easter dinner via FaceTime with my sister. I try to focus on remote learning for a 12-year-old, who wants nothing more than to see his friends again since he’s stuck in the house with his sisters and his nurse mom.

In all this, I have developed deeper connections with my colleagues. We understand each other on a level that nobody else ever could. For all of my friends and family who reach out to me, they could never understand what I mean when I say, “I’m OK, just tired.” My colleagues do.

He Helps Patients Feel Less Alone

Mahesh Sumrah, Registered Nurse, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

We signed up to be nurses. We chose to put others before ourselves, and we continue to do so in the face of adversity. We continue to push ourselves as far as we can go to ensure that others are able to return to their loved ones. The reality is that not everyone will be able to walk out of the hospital, but that will not stop us from trying to get them home.

Normal life has taken a back seat. Being on the front lines means that I am away from my family; it means that I’m putting myself at risk. Being on the front lines also means that I am there for my patients when they are alone, frightened, recovering, and, in some cases, dying. It means that I can provide some level of comfort and companionship when their loved ones cannot. It makes me proud to know that in the face of such uncertainty, my patients feel that they are not alone.

Every night I come to work, I walk in knowing that whatever we’ll be faced with during the shift, we’ll be able to handle it. No matter how high the acuity is, my team has proved time and time again that they are capable of adapting to any circumstance. Every night, I discover new things about them that amaze me and make me proud to work alongside them.

She Became an ICU Nurse Overnight

Laura Garlick, Registered Nurse, NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley

No one could have ever prepared us for COVID-19. We were told we would be converting into an ICU, but nothing could prepare us for tripling ICU capacity within a week and a half. I will never forget taking care of my first intubated patient. Within that same week, I became a charge nurse to accommodate staffing needs. Anxiety was my new companion, and it wasn’t going anywhere. We were overwhelmed by the intensity of how critical these patients were. We weren’t ICU nurses by trade, but we became them overnight.

While at work, I held it together as best I could. However, some days after dealing with emergencies, all I could do was cry on my way home and feel defeated. We were all baptized by fire working in the ICU, but it never stopped us from stepping up and doing what we had to do. Many of us began studying treatment plans and sharing information about critical care nursing with colleagues so we could take care of our patients to the best of our ability.

Nurses from all over the hospital came together; from radiology to ambulatory surgery, the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) and the OR, we all worked in unison and no matter what happened, we were in it together and had each other’s backs. Whoever needed help, someone was always there. Despite being overwhelmed, we achieved what we thought was impossible by working together. We all did what was needed rather than what we were supposed to do, and that’s why we are all NYP strong.