Lake Wales Nurse Returns Home After A Month Volunteering At NYC Hospital
by James Coulter
When Samantha Motis, 27 a Lake Wales resident, arrived at the hospital in the Bronx she was assigned to, the facility had three intensive care units (ICUs) filled with COVID-19 positive patients. Two of those ICUs were makeshift units converted from other rooms to help provide the extra capacity, she explained.
On her last day there, after nearly three weeks volunteering, the number of ICUs was reduced to one. The other two makeshift units were closed because most of the patients had either been moved to the main ICU or downgraded due to their overall conditions improving, she said.
“When I first arrived at the facility, there were three ICUs open, two of which were makeshift that they converted to an ICU because they needed more room to put these critically ill patients,” Samantha said. “Overall, the patient influx in that facility had decreased significantly, so from what I saw from my first day there to my last day there, it improved. Overall, the total patient’s coming into the hospital had decreased.”
Since 2015, Samantha has been a registered nurse with a background in critical care. She served as an ICU nurse for three and a half years. She will be graduating this December from the University of South Florida as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
Upon learning that New York was experiencing a shortage in medical staff at hospitals, and that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had called for medical workers across the county to come to his state and volunteer at their hospitals, Samantha jumped at the chance to volunteer.
Last month, she traveled to New York City, where she stayed at a hotel in Time Square and was assigned to a hospital in the Bronx. There she worked for 19 days straight working 12-hour shifts. The staffing agency provided them transportation through a charter bus. The bus would leave for the day shift at 6 a.m. and come back later that evening around 8 p.m.
Because of her prior experience as an ICU nurse, she worked in the ICU as well as the medical/surgical floor. Every patient in her unit was COVID-19 positive, so she and her staff members were provided personal protective equipment.
When she arrived at the hospital, the facility was staffed by agency nurses such as herself. The main core staff had either become sick or were not working at the time, mostly leaving the work to be done by agency nurses like her.
The main challenge for her was becoming acquainted with policies and procedures such as knowing where the supplies are stored and how they report up the chain of command. This obstacle proved quite the challenge, as she and the other nurses did not receive a normal orientation, she explained.
“When you start work at a hospital, you get a full orientation, that is standard,” she said. “It was not like that here because it was a crisis situation with all hands-on deck. I was there for 19 days, so you get the hang of it…The staff was appreciative of us being there, and for our health, and they guided us with their knowledge of the facility.”
Samantha worked alongside 13 other nurses from her staffing agency during the day shift. From the very first time they left the hotel on their charter bus to their very last day, they all formed quite the camaraderie with each other, working alongside one another during their 19 days at the hospital.
“We all became so close,” she said. “We are all from different areas, all different states, we all came together to provide for New York City, so there was such a camaraderie within the group. We were together all day, every day, they become family.”
Even closer relationships were formed with many of the patients that she treated. Being able to see many of them recover and become discharged filled her with nothing more than absolute joy and pride.
“I was able to discharge and send home patients that were previously sick with COVID, and I got the opportunity to be their nurse and send them home from the hospital,” she said. “So that was really cool to see that. To see them go home and survive it.”
Now that she has returned home, Samantha will be under quarantine for the next 14 days. She was tested last week for COVID-19, but has not yet received her test results back.
“I did that more so for peace of mind,” she explained. “But otherwise I feel great. I am fortunate. I was very cautious and used my PPE accordingly.”
She has been using her free time during her quarantine to rest and catch up on other things. She is more than ready to go back to clinical and online classwork through the University of South Florida where she is attending anesthesia school.
Until then, even after her quarantine, she plans on remaining cautious. Like most other responsible people, she believes in wearing a face mask in public. She feels that most re-opening measures are moving forward well, but she insists that people remain cautious even after the state and country re-opens.
“We are going in the right direction,” she said. “I still think it is good to take precautions and be careful and social distance. I still believe in wearing a mask in public. I saw how bad it was, so it is better to be safe for now and stay home if it is not essential to be out in public.”