Sitting in her bedroom, quarantining, Rachel Shields, an RN at Elliot Health System, is opening up about her dangerous, but courageous decision to volunteer at a New York City hospital.
“I saw the news with New York City and couldn’t believe how bad it was there, it just broke my heart. I felt bad for the nurses and patients, and something inside me just made me feel like I should just go and see what I could do to help,” Shields said.
Shields spent 21 days at Queens Hospital in Jamaica, NY. “It was one of the hardest-hit community hospitals there. I was put on one of the med surge floors, it was a pretty heavy-duty floor,” she said.
During her three weeks in New York, Shields worked with extremely sick patients. She says some were on CPAP machines and required extra care. “It was physically and mentally draining, I just had to focus and put my mind in survival mode and just power through it because I didn’t want to quit,” Shields said.
A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) made an already challenging assignment even more frustrating. “On my last day there, we ran out of gowns. When we initially got there, they’d only give us an N95 mask every five days. That wasn’t realistic when you’re wearing that mask for that many hours, you need a new one the next day,” Shields explained. Despite all of this, she never thought about quitting.
The biggest challenge Shields said she faced was not having enough help in the unit. Most of the time, she says there were no nurses’ aides on the floor. She says that meant nurses were responsible for doing vitals, blood sugars, feeding patients, and having to lift them alone.
Her message to other healthcare workers and the community, “You need to be smart and safe and follow the guidelines.”
Shields said the support she received during her 21 days was overwhelming and kept her going. She’s now quarantining for the next 14 days, staying in her bedroom away from her husband and children.
A big thank you to Rachel Shields for her amazing and courageous efforts in NYC! #wearesolutionhealth
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