Sarah, if I remember correctly, you already knew you wanted to be a nurse when you were at ISL in high school, is that correct?
Yes, I did know I wanted to be a nurse before graduating. I’ve always had an interest in going into the medical field since I was younger.
How long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse for three years now!
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, which department were you working in? How long have you been working on the pandemic front line and did you ever think you would find yourself in such a situation?
I have worked in the emergency room (ER) my entire career, and I have continued to work in the ER during the pandemic. The ER serves a very important role during times like these because we are often the first point of contact for most patients. As soon as the virus reached the United States, my hospital instituted new protocols to keep all healthcare professionals and patients safe. During normal times, the ER is a dynamic place to work, but the past 3 months have been surreal.
Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you right now:
I work the night shift which means I go into work at 1900 and then work 12 hours until 0700. Some people think that night shift is slower because “patients are sleeping”, but that is definitely not the case in the ER. No matter what time of day or night there are always sick or injured people coming into the ER.
During the pandemic the first thing we do is put on our Personal Protective Equipment – PPE - I put my hair up into a cap, goggles on to protect my eyes and we wear masks throughout the entire shift whether we are in a patient’s room or not. When we have a patient with a suspected Covid-19 infection or showing symptoms of Covid-19 we then put on a disposable plastic gown that covers our bodies to keep us even further protected. Luckily, my hospital has not had any shortage of PPE throughout the pandemic.
How do you manage to stay positive and keep calm during these times? Your days (or nights) must be really difficult. How do you do it?
It definitely helps having a great team of co-workers to work alongside. In the ER it’s extremely important to work as a team to give our patients the care they deserve and to keep each other safe. I have become very close with my co-workers – they are like family and we all work to keep smiles on each other’s faces.
What word of advice would you give to the general public in order to help reduce risk of becoming sick:
The most important thing is to keep practicing good hand washing, keeping a mask on when you are going to a public place, and keeping the elderly and immunocompromised away from the public.
What has working on the front lines of this pandemic taught you?
It has taught me to always expect the unexpected and the importance of flexibility in the workplace. Every week we are adjusting our procedures for what we should and shouldn’t be doing as we learn more and more about this virus and how it is transmitted and diagnosed.
On May 23, the Class of 2020 would have graduated from your Alma Mater, ISL, but the ceremony has been cancelled due to the pandemic. What message would you like to give them?
Even though everything has been turned upside down these past few months, things will get back to normal, although it might be a new normal. When the whole pandemic started, my parents told me that 20 years from now, we’ll be talking about the crazy year of 2020. How we had to deal with the fears and unknowns of a modern-day pandemic. Things may seem dark right now, but it will get better. This time in your life is a time for learning about yourself and finding what you want to do and discovering the kind of person you want to be. Use your time wisely and travel, try new things, and learn as much as possible.
You can read more about Sarah in her Alumni Interview here