MSK is celebrating National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6 to 12 every year – the end date coinciding with Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year marks the 200th anniversary of her birth, prompting the World Health Organization to designate 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife.” MSK nurses are without a doubt some of our #MSKHealthcareHeroes, and while it’s true every year that they are the best of the best, it has never been more obvious than it is now.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSK nurses have been at the forefront of our response. As an institution, we’re trying to better understand how this virus affects people with cancer, and our nurses are using their extensive training, experience, and wisdom to help patients overcome the coronavirus while managing their cancer.
In recognition of National Nurses Week, here are a few of their stories:
When the Nurse Becomes the Patient
“After an intense few weeks collaborating with hospital leadership to plan our emergency response, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I suddenly found myself on the receiving end of MSK’s compassionate, evidence-based patient care. It was a situation I never expected to be in, but I am so grateful that my MSK colleagues gave me the same personalized care they give to every single patient. From my moments in urgent care to the time I spent in the intensive care unit, I know the treatment and kindness I received saved my life. It was a challenging few weeks, but on April 14, I was discharged and am feeling better each day. To put it simply, MSK nurses are bar none.”
- Kevin Browne, RN, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer at MSK
Love in the Time of COVID-19
MSK Kids nurse Vanessa Pereirinha and her fiancé, Brandon, were due to be married in New York City on April 4. After the city began to shut down; her wedding venue and vendors began to cancel on her. Faced with having to cancel her wedding, they decided to try and get to City Hall before it was closed on March 20. Vanessa spoke to her supervisor and told her of her plan to get married over her lunch break. Decked out in her MSK Kids uniform, she and Brandon went to City Hall only to find out it had been closed. Disappointed, they started to head back to work; however, they found out there was an officiant doing weddings in Central Park. They raced to Central Park with their marriage license in hand and found the officiant, who married Vanessa and Brandon on the spot. Knowing she had patients to see, she headed back to MSK. Upon her arrival and much to her surprise, her MSK Kids co-workers threw her a surprise wedding reception to add to the celebration.
#MSKHealthcareHeroes Prepare Nurses for the Frontlines
When hundreds of nurses and doctors were recruited from across New York City to treat patients with COVID-19 at the repurposed Jacob J. Javits Convention Center, Leon Chen was one of many to heed the call.
“As a critical care clinician, I have a responsibility to help people at MSK and New York City in general,” says Dr. Chen, an advanced practice provider in MSK’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine.
In late March, Dr. Chen was asked by the United States Public Health Service to train nurses to support COVID-19 patients using mechanical ventilators. The tricky part was that many of the nurses had little experience in treating patients in respiratory failure and their training all had to be done remotely. The team’s solution: Create five, basic 10- to 15-minute training modules that nurses could access on their phones, anytime and anywhere. Because the training modules were directed toward nurses who lacked experience working in critical care or intensive care units, Dr. Chen and his colleagues needed to simplify them, ensuring they were as accessible as possible. Ultimately, he and his team were able to create and successfully deploy the training modules within two weeks.