In April, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave, registered nurse Alex Gary volunteered with International Medical Corps in New York City. She subsequently volunteered at a hospital in Texas stricken by the virus, and is today working in the COVID-19 unit of Christos Saint Vincent Regional Medical Center’s emergency department in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Describing the flood of patients streaming into the hospital, for whom there are not enough beds, Gary says Santa Fe is “definitely seeing its worst spike in cases yet.” At the same time, she notes an increased resistance to wearing masks and social distancing that, combined with flu season, leads her to believe that “we haven’t reached the peak yet.”
Here, Alex describes what it’s like to serve on the frontlines of COVID-19:
Alex describes herself as a “huge advocate” for masks. “I think this partly comes from seeing people in my age group who are resistant to the masks, or who might be living their lives as if there’s not a pandemic going on,” she says. “As a nurse, I think it’s so important that we all do our part to abide by preventative measures to stop the virus’ spread and ensure that the burden doesn’t just fall on healthcare workers.” Every day, Alex hears very sick patients express regret for not having taken the virus more seriously, which she finds heartbreaking and frustrating.
Yet COVID-19 has reaffirmed Alex’s career choice. “I really do love nursing,” she says. “Even with the staffing shortages around the country, patients are receiving quality care—which really shows you how resilient nurses are.” When things get really hard, being part of a team and knowing that she is not alone helps Alex with the burnout. She has also discovered her own power, thanks to the unprecedented challenges she has faced while fighting this pandemic. “I think I have found that I’m more adaptable than I thought I was before going to work in those other hospitals in New York and Texas,” she says. “Learning to thrive even with limited resources really strengthened me as a nurse, and is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”
To learn more about International Medical Corps’ efforts to fight COVID-19 in the US and around the world, visit internationalmedicalcorps.org/covid19.