LSU Health nursing student shares experience of working “on the bleeding edge of a global health crisis”

Dr. Phil Brown, Chief Physician Executive at NHRMC, provides an update on status of coronavirus...
Dr. Phil Brown, Chief Physician Executive at NHRMC, provides an update on status of coronavirus pandemic in New Hanover County, saying the number of cases could double every two or three days(WECT)
Updated: Mar. 29, 2020 at 9:19 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing faculty received a message from one of their students who, along with about a dozen others, is responding to the COVID-19 crisis in Louisiana.

Since their clinical education was put on hold because of the outbreak, they have been working as nurse techs in hospitals hit hard by rapidly increasing numbers of patients with or suspected of having COVID-19.

He wrote the message because he wanted the school to see what he sees in his classmates. He asked that his name not be used because he said this isn’t about him --he feels like he is standing on the shoulders of giants -- so we’ll just call him “Nate.”

“I wanted to take a minute to tell you about what some of your students are doing during this unplanned interruption of the academic year. Since we stopped attending class on campus, I have been working quite a few hours as a tech in a local Emergency Room. We were busy and shorthanded before the pandemic began, and that situation has only worsened. We see at least a two-dozen suspected Covid-19 patients a day who require full isolation precautions, in addition to the patient load that already existed. What I see in that ER every day or night when I go into work is tired staff, supply shortages, very sick people and your students.

“Your students are in that ER working with zeal and resolve, with compassion and competency, and with dedication. I have spent the better part of my life leading young men on battlefields, and what I am seeing from your students, my classmates, is on par with what I saw there regarding young people defying expectations.

“I have seen your students told that housekeeping was shorthanded because, out of fear, the bulk of the shift had called out of work. Because of that, they wouldn’t be taking care of patients, but instead would spend their shift doing the dirty, dangerous, and tiring job of terminal cleaning the isolation rooms, over and over and over. The students took on this task without a complaint or without letting pride interfere with duty.

“I have seen your students manage up and approach charge nurses and physicians to tell them they had discovered a critical task that needed to be completed and they had already gotten it done rather than wait around to be told to do so. They are working tirelessly with minimal supervision and without being prompted or directed.

“I watched your students teach experienced nurses who were floated to the ER about ventilator settings and how to manage a Propofol drip in relation to a patient’s blood pressure. I have watched LSU Nursing students provide confident, compassionate comfort to patients staring down a terrifying illness that is largely unknown to them, and I have seen students help pick up their colleagues by showing up with a positive attitude and an esprit de corps that raises the spirits of the entire staff.

“I am blown away by these kids. I don’t think any of them anticipated being on the bleeding edge of a Global Health Crisis when they began their studies at LSU Health New Orleans. But here they are, and the community is better off for it. I don’t know what can be done to recognize the excellence of the students, but whatever it is, it should be done. In a past life, I’d have written an award for each and every one of them. I don’t impress easily and what these young ladies, and I am sure young men are doing in New Orleans and in Hammond, in Baton Rouge, in Lafayette and who knows where else, is impressive as hell.

“Before I close out what is a way longer message than I intended, I would like to express a concern. I worry about the emotional well-being of these students when this is all over. I was 22 years old when I parachuted into the Afghan night to seize an airfield. I was too young and too naïve to know that what I was doing was hard and would take its toll on me. I was lucky that my Regiment and my leadership were thinking of that for me and were ready when it was all over. None of us know how long this thing will last, but I think it’s abundantly clear the worst is yet to come. Some of these students are about to get a front-row seat to a level of human despair and suffering that they didn’t know they needed to prepare themselves for, and it worries me. I don’t know what the School can do, or is obligated to do, but please be ready to handle with care when your students get handed back to you. Your kids have gone out into their community in its darkest hour and been a light that everybody needed. I am proud of them, and you should be as well.”

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.