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by Kate Kelly…

As a college senior, hearing about the news of COVID-19 and how it would impact my final few weeks at Colgate was truly heartbreaking. I spent my last days at Colgate experiencing a mix of emotions; I was scared, overwhelmed, uncertain, and devastated in some moments, and in others I was filled with a sense of happiness and joy surrounded by the people who made Colgate so special to me. As the days came to a close and I made my way back home to Summit, New Jersey, I realized the severity of this global pandemic and how significantly it would impact people across the globe. While I still continue to feel a sense of heartbreak as the days pass on, I have developed a new perspective in this quarantine as I have realized how fortunate I am to be safe and healthy in my home in New Jersey. I started to recognize the important role that social location has played during this pandemic, as COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the country, particularly throughout New York and New Jersey. 

I have started to think about what it means to live in New Jersey during this time, thinking about the idea that a zip code can be more important than one’s genetic code. I live just 20 miles outside of New York City, a place that has been greatly affected by the coronavirus. According to news reports earlier today, “30 New York City hospitals have reached or are near ICU bed capacity” as the city has 67,000 confirmed cases with over 2,600 reported deaths. New Jersey has also been impacted tremendously by COVID-19 as there are 37,505 confirmed cases and 9,420 deaths as of reports from earlier this morning.

One of my friends has been working tirelessly day in and day out at New York – Presbyterian Hospital and I asked her to share a few words about her experience working during these incredibly stressful and nerve wracking times. She told me:

While the medical piece of caring for COVID patients is quite simple for the most part, the emotional and psychological piece is overwhelming. Watching someone die alone, who at any day now could be your loved one, is terrifying and horrifically sad. However, I do feel grateful to be given the opportunity to care for these people (and their families) at what probably is the most vulnerable time in their life.”

Olivia’s words stuck with me as I started to think about the position of privilege I am in during this pandemic. I live just 0.6 miles away from Overlook Hospital where I could be treated if I were to get sick over the next few weeks. Luckily, my family has stayed healthy during this time. Nurses, like Olivia, and a number of other people who are working on the front line during this pandemic are truly admirable. Olivia’s message resonated with many ideas we have discussed in our class regarding “care vs. cure”; she is trying to treat the patient’s medical conditions, while also caring for them because they are not able to be accompanied by their families during this time. 

As I began to reflect on Olivia’s message, I developed a sense of appreciation, humility, and grace towards the countless number of people like her who are risking their lives during this time to help those in need. In these moments, we have seen many different groups across society come together to care for one another and practice a sense of community and I hope that these efforts to love and care for one another continue even after COVID-19 has settled.


4 Replies to “Appreciating Frontline Nurses in New Jersey

  1. Thank you for this post. When Olivia said that the emotional and psychological piece of being in a hospital is the most overwhelming, my sister can relate to that. She’s a nurse practitioner volunteering at Weill Cornell hospital in NYC. She says that it’s hard to compartmentalize all of the death she sees during her night shifts. Perhaps when this is all over, people like Olivia and my sister Sean could really benefit from some sort of group therapy devoted to healing from the trauma that is seeing so many people die in such a short period of time.

  2. Times like this really show us who the real heroes are, and your friend Olivia is one of them. I truly believe that nursing is one of the most unrecognized and under-appreciated occupations in the entire job market, and this pandemic is making the world see that they are the backbones of the healthcare system. I feel like right now especially is a time where doctors and nurses may try to emotionally distance themselves from patients due to the mass number of deaths that are occurring. So, to hear that your friend is still caring for her patients, not only curing them, makes me really hopeful. Awesome post, and thank your friend Olivia for me!

    1. Good point Sophia about medical practitioner’s detachment as a survival/coping skill. I know that the more exposure they have to each patient who has tested positive, the more dangerous it is for them physically. And then psychically/emotionally, one might want to protect themselves from getting to know these patients (if there is even time for that). But I also hope they are able to be present with them in their time of need especially as they are isolated from family and friends.

  3. Thanks for sharing Olivia’s journey within the healthcare system! Your point about cure vs. care is so important right now. It is amazing that Olivia is able to work to cure COVID-19 patients, but also care for them emotionally as they are often alone. I imagine this is taking a toll on her, having to physically and emotionally care for patients, day in and day out. It is people like her that are helping to keep our country afloat during this pandemic. I am in a similar position to you at home, with access to hospitals and healthcare facilities, if needed. People like Olivia make me feel incredibly grateful for what I have and the social location I reside in. Thanks for sharing your’s and Olivia’s story, Kate- stay safe and give Olivia my best!

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