Newman nursing graduates on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief

Nursing graduates enter the workforce ready to serve patients and contribute to community health. Still, many new healthcare professions probably do not expect to be standing on the front-lines of a global pandemic their first year on the job.

With hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients and taking unprecedented precautions, some of Newman’s newest nursing graduates say they are undaunted.

Angela de Souza graduated from Newman with a nursing degree in spring of 2019. She works for Via Christi in the ER unit and spent time serving on the newly designated COVID-19 floor.

Nurses are required to wear their masks in the hospital at all times, de Souza said, and when she goes into the COVID section, she dons a face shield as well.

She says, so far, the workload has not been overwhelming, as the hospital has seen fewer patients for non-coronavirus-related reasons. But the level of attention some patients in the hospital receive has gone up.

“Three or four months ago... it was unlikely to have to think twice about going into a room with a cough. Now we typically are assigning one nurse per patient who has any sign or symptom of COVID, and then we also have a runner nurse that stays outside the room to get supplies,” de Souza said.

She said she believes her nursing education at Newman prepared her well to handle the pandemic.  

“They teach us critical thinking in nursing school for a reason. I think they focus a majority of their curriculum on how to think critically through situations like this,” de Souza said. “I don’t think any of our professors or any of us as nurses ever predicted working a pandemic, but I think we’re taking the resources that we have and expanding them everyday… We’re learning how to be more effective everyday.”

De Souza said that while the virus does not necessarily scare her, she does often think about how her regular exposure from working at the hospital could make her a carrier.

“I do have a mix of emotions…I’m grateful that I have a job...but I’m anxious that we still aren’t through the thick of it yet. . . But this is why I became an ER nurse, to be on the frontlines of any disaster that faces the community,” she said.

Aspen Herzberg got her BSN from Newman in December 2019, and she works in the pediatric unit at Wesley, where it is no longer business as usual.

Herzberg said each day she and the other healthcare workers must form a single file line to get into the hospital building.

“There’s tape and stations by each door and you have to use hand sanitizer, grab a mask, and grab a paper bag,” she said. “After you grab all your stuff, you get into another line to take your temperature, and you have to wear your mask at all times.”

Herzberg said that while working in the pediatric unit means she does not deal directly with COVID-19 patients, the pandemic still has a big effect on her job, especially as it relates to dealing with families of patients.

“A lot of parents are not happy. We’ve definitely gotten some not nice words from parents not allowed to be up there… I can imagine I wouldn’t want to leave my child like that either,” she said.  

Herzberg said the pandemic has helped reaffirm her career choice, as it has only further showed her how important the work of a nurse is.

“I’m super thankful for my job and the career I took, that I'm able to still have a job and care for patents and be around these awesome people,” she said. “It makes me feel blessed that I chose this profession.”

Courtesy photo, Angela de Souza