Alumni on the Front Lines
For an entire year, national news broadcasts focused on the frontline health care workers who have been integral to the pandemic response. LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing alumni are among them. Their experiences not only underscore their important role in delivering vital health care, but also their heartfelt dedication to their calling. These are some of their stories.
Learning on the Front Line
As a newly minted nurse graduate, Tayla Napoleon (BSN, RN ’19) found that on-the-job training as a travel nurse in Atlanta during the pandemic proved she was made of some tough stuff.
“Due to COVID, everywhere I have worked is so understaffed. I’ll take care of six or seven COVID-19 patients at a time and it’s very hard,” she says. “I would not have gotten through it without my family and praying.”
Her education has also served her well. “Nursing is always an ongoing experience. I was so scared as a new nurse after graduating and didn’t realize that you keep learning each day of your career, long after you finish school,” she adds.
Approaching Care with Dignity
As emergency departments across the country became overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, nurses were called upon to do the next-to-impossible: keep going, stay healthy and be ready for the unexpected.
“As an emergency department nurse, I relied on two things to keep my focus on my patients,” says Christina Wodajo (BSN, RN ’19). “I stayed physically active and got perspective from those in my life who are not in health care. Those helped me become more mindful about what I was experiencing on a daily basis.”
Working in the emergency department during COVID-19 has also helped refocus her approach to nursing as a career. “If I could advise my student-self about nursing, I would say, ‘With everything you do, have humility and practice with diligence,’” she explains.
As COVID-19 raged, it was easy for the public to forget that nurses everywhere were also focused on sick patients whose conditions made them especially vulnerable to the virus. Zoë Alexander (BSN, RN ’19) works on a pediatric acute care unit at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.
“We get patients with a wide range of diagnoses, but our specialties are diabetes, eating disorders and cystic fibrosis,” she explains. “I’ve primarily leaned on my friends and family for emotional support throughout everything, whether to just vent about work or for distraction.”
Working to maintain balance is just as important for nursing school students, she says. She shares this advice: “Don’t sacrifice all fun for school. Definitely still spend time studying in the library, but try to find at least one afternoon/evening a week to relax and let loose.”
Wearing PPE With Pride
Victoria Day (BSN, RN ’19) may speak for all nurses on the front lines today when she says, “I think we were all a little terrified to be in this predicament during this time, risking our own lives to save others.”
As a labor and delivery and postpartum nurse, Day is proud to have found a great fit in a great job. “It wasn’t easy to stay away from my family and not be able to hug them. But the people in my community have kept my spirits high and my ambition going,” she says. “Doing what I have to do is part of the job that I love, and I wear my PPE with pride.”