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Holly Roberts Endicott College nursing student working on COVID-19 patientsCOVID-19-related stories from Endicott College School of Nursing students who are on the front lines continue to come into Dean Nancy Meedzan. Her students are combating this public health crisis head-on while juggling school and other responsibilities. Meedzan’s curricula focuses on patient-centered care, and nursing student Holly Roberts is putting this into practice, ten-fold.

Roberts says her family has been well-aware of COVID-19 since December as her older sister was working and living in Hangzhou, China, teaching English as a foreign language. To them it seemed that as soon as they were able to get her sister home and through quarantine, they started seeing cases here in the states.

This pandemic has directly affected her work as a nurse and cost her a waitressing job, which was a second source of revenue. She has been able to add more hospital hours to help recoup some of the lost income, while also increasing her dedication to patients in need.

“I work at (a North Shore hospital) in the emergency room (ER)…We have seen many scary things, multiple crash intubations needing to take place simultaneously on the overnight shift,” says Roberts.

She and other medical staff are trying to protect themselves while also protecting patients, attempting to transport intubated patients to the units without risking exposure to anyone along the way. Roberts and her colleagues have been “reassuring patients we will do our very best job to take care of them, whilst not telling them they will ‘be okay,’ because at this point, we really don’t know.”

The hospital itself must be quick to make adjustments on the fly, and they appreciate the support of the community. “Every day at the ER there are new walls being put up, additional makeshift negative pressure rooms being built, new protocols and procedures, and even more so than anything—donations,” says Roberts.

“Being on the frontline of the ER is scary because we’re seeing undiagnosed patients decompensating quickly….Diagnosed, previously discharged patients (are) returning for worsened conditions. We’ve also had patients with none of the typical COVID-19 complaints test positive after the fact.”

The unpredictability this virus presents can make an already difficult job even more challenging for nurses and medical staff. “You never know who is coming through those triage doors or in on a stretcher, so we assume everyone is COVID-19 positive,” says Roberts. “Every code we run, every intubation, even every trauma, the patient is assumed COVID-positive until we can prove otherwise.”

Through it all, Roberts finds comfort in community. “It feels good to help in such a time of need, but it feels even better to have the support of the community and of Endicott College behind me,” she says. “I would not change my ER job or give up this opportunity to help and to learn, as it just makes me that much more excited to be a nurse.”