From Georgia to New York, two Mercer Bears have left home to work in one of the nation’s biggest hot spots for the COVID-19 crisis: New York City.
“Right now all of these patients are like strictly COVID patients. So it’s like you kind of just master a routine of how to care for them. This is very different,” said Erica Haywood, a 2019 graduate of Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing.
Fellow Bear Victoria Collins, a 2018 graduate of Mercer’s nursing program, is also working on assignment, caring for COVID-19 patients in New York. She, too, said offering specialized care from patient to patient has been a major part of her job.
“We’re having to treat each patient very individually based off of whether or not they also have diabetes or congestive heart failure, whether or not they’re HIV positive,” Collins said. “It’s a daily process of coming up literally with a new game plan for each and every patient based off of their current condition.”
With the ever-evolving uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, both women said they wouldn’t have the confidence to care for the most vulnerable, had it not been for their education at Mercer.
“Because so many patients are sick and on so many different medications, usually with patients we’ll run their medications through their IV using a pump, and you just kind of program it, and it does everything for you. We have a shortage of pumps,” Collins said.
“And one thing that Mercer, Georgia Baptist College of Nursing specifically, really drilled into us — and we got tested on every semester and had to make a 90 or above on the test — was to learn how to do this kind of stuff manually without the pump in a situation where we didn’t have pumps available. And I’ve had to do that, like every day.”
Haywood said the knowledge she learned at Mercer has given her confidence.
“I’m a very proud alumni from that school because I just feel like I’m very comfortable with my skills across the board,” she said. “Mercer taught me how to be involved in different nursing organizations. And, I mean, just the knowledge we received from them — it’s just amazing.”
But what’s helping make these former Bears stand out isn’t just centered around the medical education they received at Mercer, but the bedside manner and empathy that they were also taught to have.
“They taught me to make sure to pay attention to the little things, to treat the patient, not machines. And so this is a really hard time for these patients because not only are they sick, and they’re scared, and a lot of them know that they’re dying, they can’t have their loved ones come and see them. And so you’re adding this entire extra emotion of loneliness and helplessness to the process of while they’re dying,” Collins said.
“We’ve done little things for them like play music and dance with them even though they’re like semi out of it. We had one patient whose family gathered outside on the street, and we didn’t have a room available where we could get him to a window. We just pushed him into the hallway area where the window could see out. And they all have signs and balloons, and they were waving to him from the street. And so he got to see his family that way.
“I painted my patients toenails the other day, just to make sure she felt better. Like little things like that. And our professors really did drill that into us.”