What It’s Like to Be a Nurse Manager in New York Right Now

I try to remind my nurses that we have to take each situation as it comes. We’ve all been there for each other in a way that we never thought we would need to be. Laughing, dancing, and crying together—whatever we need to do to get through the shift.

How are you adapting to these changes?

All of the patients on my unit are confirmed COVID-19 patients at this time. These patients aren’t like regular medicine patients. Most are very sick, and within minutes their condition can change from stable to critical. As their acuity goes up, it stresses us out.

I manage the same way I always have: remaining calm and coming up with a solution. Today, and most days since this began, I’m exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. I think we all are. As nurse managers, we want to support our teams in any way we can and that often means working longer hours when shifts get chaotic.

Sometimes I break down. Little things trigger me at night after a stressful day. I go for a run every day when I get home. Getting some fresh air has helped.

What are your biggest concerns for your health?

It breaks my heart knowing that nurses are losing their lives to the virus. We lost one of our nurses in the hospital to COVID-19, so this hits home. It’s been devastating. We have to keep trucking along and saving lives for those who no longer can because that’s what nurses do.

Of course, I’m concerned that I might come down with COVID-19, but I try not to think about it, or I get anxious. I see the 20- and 30-year-old patients in the hospital, and it makes my stomach turn thinking that could be me.

I change my clothes and shoes before leaving work. I keep safe by carefully removing my paper scrubs at the end of the day and wiping all my belongings down before I get in the car. Once I get home, I throw my scrubs directly into the wash on hot and go straight into the shower. The whole process adds about another 20 minutes to my day. It’s annoying but very necessary.

How do you feel about the misinformation you’re seeing circulate about COVID-19?

I hope that the public understands the severity of COVID-19, but I fear that you have to see it to believe it. Until you experience a family saying goodbye to their loved one via FaceTime, you really can’t imagine how awful this situation is.

Please listen to what everyone’s saying. Stay home. People can then hopefully stay out of the hospital. If you don’t have to go out, please don’t. I know it’s hard staying away from friends and family. But it’s nothing compared to losing another life to this awful virus.

How are you staying positive through all of this?

I’m fortunate to have a very supportive boyfriend who’s at home cooking and taking care of things while I’m out fighting COVID-19. Many of the other nurses on my unit have supportive significant others who have been writing letters to us to keep encouraging us and packing food for us.

My team keeps me positive and hopeful. We count every single discharge that we have. We line up and clap, sing, and dance as each patient is wheeled out the door. Over the hospital page system, we play “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles when a patient is discharged, and we all stop and cheer.

Our community has been amazing. From food donations to cards and signs, we truly feel the love and support. I and all of the hospital employees have been so appreciative of the meals we’ve been receiving. It’s been helpful not to have to worry about putting together our meals so we can focus more on our patients.

Just this morning, a man was standing outside the hospital at 7 A.M. with a sign that said: “Thank you, heroes.” It brought tears to my eyes and gave me that extra motivation to get through another day.


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