Ariadna Sanchez, RN
It’s 8 am on a sunny Monday morning in Laurel, Maryland. You may not be able to see the lower half of her face, but underneath that bright pink mask, Ariadna Sanchez, RN, is smiling.
“This is the home of the brave,” the travel ICU nurse says, referring to the massive nearby sign saying so that’s structured on the side of the hospital next to the highway.
In May, Sanchez came to Maryland from her hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. She is one of more than 300 healthcare professionals who travelled to work at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center. Parts of the hospital had been closed prior to the pandemic, and was reopened to take care of a surge of inpatients in hard-hit Prince Georges County.
Sanchez says that her experience on the front lines has been incredible. “I love the people and the culture here.” Almost everyone working at the hospital is on assignment from somewhere else in the country.
What is it like working as an ICU nurse on the front lines of a pandemic? Patients are critically ill, and the care team is trying to save their lives. She says that until COVID-19, “I didn’t know I was this emotionally strong.”
To de-stress, Sanchez enjoys being out in nature with new friends. While she’s not a fan of the traffic in Maryland, she has gotten to see monuments in Washington, DC, enjoy nearby vineyards, and spend time on the New Jersey beaches – all of which are within a few hours’ drive. Recently, her fiancé flew in to visit, and she surprised him with passes to go skydiving. “It was the most amazing experience!” she says.
This assignment has been different because it’s made Sanchez more aware of how important her role as patient advocate is. The hospital has a no-visitors policy because of the public health crisis and need to limit virus exposure. Since families cannot physically be there with their sick loved ones, they are counting on the nurses and other healthcare professionals for emotional support. Often she is the sole communication link between patients and their families.
“This is the human part of nursing. It’s not just about clinical. We are taking care of the emotional needs of our patients. This is really what nursing is all about.”
Amanda Sheaffer, RN
Traveling from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Amanda Sheaffer, RN, is part of the hospital’s rapid response team. If there is a change in a patient’s heart rate, level of consciousness, or oxygen level, she is part of the “go-team” that rushes to the patient to provide emergency care.
Sheaffer has been here since the middle of April, when the project was just getting underway. “The most rewarding part of this experience has been to be on the team that opened up a hospital that was closed and create protocols,” she says.
Since COVID-19 is a new disease with no vaccine, we continue to learn more about it each day. Some of the patients worsen quickly, making it challenging for the care team on many levels. Sheaffer focuses on the positive, and is thankful for the bond she shares with her colleagues, and they can relate to each other’s experiences. “I try to enjoy this new area, and go on hikes and to the beach,” she says.
Overall, it’s been a unique and fulfilling assignment. “I didn’t quite see 2020, the ‘Year of Nurses,’ meaning being on the front lines of a pandemic,” says Sheaffer.
“But this group of healthcare professionals that has united all over the country to provide care to some of the most critically ill patients I have ever seen, is nothing less than remarkable. I am proud to be a part of this team.”
Are you a nurse interested in traveling the country? Find open travel assignments here!