In coming days, when the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center opens its expanded ICU for COVID-19 patients in need of serious help, nurses from around the country will be there working to help them.
Walking through the ICU and intermediate care floors will be nurses from our region, but also Dallas, Pittsburgh, Boston, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, among other places.
They came here knowing they’d be working specifically with COVID-19 patients, but not many specifics beyond that.
“I think it’s a passion of the heart,” said Dr. Trudy Hall, who is helping to organize the reopening of three floors at the hospital in Laurel. “It’s the passion of the heart from the staff to say I’m going to want to come and help.”
That’s what lured nurses like Lisa Brown, who works as a nurse at a cardiac hospital in Dallas, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been less severe.
“We shut down all our surgeries and we have excess nurses, so I wanted to come and help,” said Brown, who was working on the critical care unit floor, outside of rooms loaded up with ventilators and other high tech equipment for those with the most severe cases of COVID-19.
Other nurses in the hospital have already worked with COVID-19 patients in other hospitals and said they actively sought out the opportunity to be in the thick of it.
“Working in a world pandemic as an RN is probably one of the most rewarding things you can do,” said Ashlee Perez of Florida. “Definitely controlled chaos. It keeps you going and it’s very interesting — it’s fun.”
The opportunity presented by the state’s push to expand the number of hospital beds around the region to meet rising demand is also what lured Jennifer Sorce of Pittsburgh.
“I feel honored, I’m excited,” said Sorce. “Especially this situation, opening up the facility and really kind of starting from the ground up.”
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That part in particular resonated with Perez, too.
“We’re starting here from the ground up, so it’s going to be interesting to see the transition from the beginning until the end,” said Perez, 27. “Rather than walking into it and it’s already been flowing.”
Sorce normally works in different hospitals around the Pittsburgh region, which also hasn’t been hit as hard.
“I’m excited to help with everything,” said Sorce. “I was really looking forward to it. I adapt easily to change and I’m very spontaneous. I like to get into the action. I pick up on things very quickly, so I’m excited for this.”
“It’s different from working as a bedside nurse,” she added. “Everything is so unexpected.”
It’s work that many others would shy away from, and while these nurses didn’t outright say they weren’t aware of the dangers associated with this job, they wouldn’t admit to worrying about them either.
“What am I bracing for?” Sorce, asked. “Just the safe transfer of patients and just adapting to how we’re going to get through the whole process and just take it one day at a time.”
“I’m respectful of the virus,” Brown said, when asked if she was scared. “And I’m very grateful for having PPE.”