Written by: Colleen Conaty BSN, RN-BC, Float Team, North Shore University Hospital
Behind the Mask: Working as a Float RN during the COVID-19 pandemic
Being clinical professionals, we were excited and honored to be a part of history by saving lives – but we could not have anticipated what the next weeks would bring. Though it was unlike anything we could have imagined, my team managed our small unit like champions. As the first designated unit, we were also the first to use personal protective equipment (PPE). We then used our experience to start the education process to teach others how to don and doff PPE properly. From respiratory therapists and environmental service workers to doctors and advanced clinical providers the float team was there to educate them all. We wanted to make sure each member of our North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) team would be able to fight this battle safely.
As the need for more COVID units arose, we opened our unit happily to the ICU nurses who expanded their services to care for patients. We showed them where our supplies were kept and oriented them to our unit so they could take care of the sickest patients. The float team’s challenge was then opening two brand-new units and our nurses, PCAs and CSAs, proudly came in on days off to help support our patients. Every time a manager would ask for more staff many volunteers would offer each time – all to make sure our team members weren’t going to be overwhelmed.
We are still fighting, but the most amazing thing I’ve noticed over the past weeks isn’t just the amount of lives we’ve saved, but that everyone is still smiling. My team carries on with the same smiles and laughs they’ve always had, sending each other heartfelt messages throughout the day. Come to one of our units at any time and I guarantee you’ll hear uplifting music playing from our nursing stations. You’ll find a busy nurse still making time to go room to room with an iPad, helping our patients to FaceTime their family. A few happy tears are shed when we learn a patient has been discharged or when we hear “Here Comes the Sun” play overhead, and celebrating that a patient gets to live because they won the battle – that we won the battle together.
I have never seen strength like this in my lifetime. Though these times are dark, this team has brought light into this world and shown me what it means to truly be a hero. Working aside these people has been the privilege and the honor of a lifetime. Float team, you are saving lives every single day and going through one of the hardest times, arguably of our lifetime, and you’re facing it with positivity. I am so proud of you all and so proud to call you my float family.
Are you Made for an exceptional nursing career like Colleen’s? Learn more about nursing at Northwell Health.
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