International Nurses Day: The Importance of Staying Vigilant

May 12, 2020

International Nurses Day: The Importance of Staying Vigilant

You've probably heard it if you live in New York City: the sound of clapping and cheering that fills the streets of all five boroughs every night at 7pm, our thank you to the great sacrifice frontline workers are making everyday. In honor of International Nurses Day, we're interviewing bold nurses who are generously sharing their stories and inspiring us to do all that we can to keep each other safe.

Victoria Pollack, a nursing student at Columbia University who will graduate in August this year to become a Registered Nurse with a Master of Science degree in nursing, virtual chatted with us about her first-hand insight into the ongoing pandemic. Following her calling of bringing life into the world and already studying midwifery in her native UK, she’s now facing this unprecedented crisis with a mixture of poise and resilience.

Talk about your calling to be a midwife and what it means to you to bring life into the world.

It started when my mom used to talk about the great care she received with me and my sister when we were born in the UK. My sister is actually named after the midwife who cared for her. I love that as a midwife you have the great privilege of being there at such a life-changing moment where someone becomes a parent or that a new brother, sister, grandchild, niece, nephew is welcomed into the world. It’s a very unique and special job. 

How has your job changed since the outbreak of Covid-19?

Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital were able to work together to find us a role as nursing assistants for those who wished to and were able to stay in New York to help the hospital with their increased need. This wasn’t a requirement of our course, but many of us were keen to help in any way we could.

I’m currently working on a postpartum floor. Birth partner and visitors are not allowed on the unit (*recently amended to allow one support person) so women are there without the familiar support. Thankfully through FaceTime and phone calls family members can catch up with the mom and new baby. The nurses, doctors and nursing assistants do everything they can to give all the support that these mothers need before they are discharged home.

What are the biggest rewards and challenges of your everyday new normal?

Some of the biggest challenges are working in an environment where you are at risk of being exposed to the virus and communicating through a face mask can be challenging. The biggest rewards are seeing how the healthcare team really supports each other through this, whether it’s the nursing manager choreographing a TikTok video, or just checking in with each other. Seeing healthy moms and babies go home is even more wonderful because it offers a beacon of hope and happiness in these dark times.

How do you see health, wellness, and birth changing in a post Covid-19 world?   

I hope that after Covid-19 passes we have a greater appreciation for the simple measures that keep us all safe, like sneezing/coughing into a tissue/elbow and the importance of washing our hands. For some women, home birth has been seen as a more appealing place to give birth than it once did. Hopefully, with time we will understand the virus better so we can make more evidenced-based decisions on how to treat the Covid-19 infection during pregnancy.

Have you heard the nightly 7PM applause of New Yorker’s all around the city showing their appreciation? What does it mean to you? 

I am glad I have the skills to help. The 7pm applause is very moving and it means a great deal to those working in healthcare and supporting roles. I think of those who have died from this horrendous disease and those who are working every day to fight it. I think of my colleagues in Europe and around the world who are united in fighting in overstretched hospitals often without the protection they need. 

If you could give us one piece of advice about staying safe what would it be?

The most important thing right now is keep social distancing. Despite the hardship that this causes in all of our lives, not being able to see loved ones and go about our usual way of life, it is the most important tool we have against fighting Covid-19. When you go out, cover your face and regularly wash your hands. Check in on those you know who may be alone. We can all make a real difference in the lives of others right now.

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