York College Nursing graduate works the front lines in NYC hospital during COVID-19 outbreak
Katie (Murphy) Schicchi ’09 walks past a street lined with COVID-19 testing tents and refrigerated mobile morgues on her way to work at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. It’s a scene she never thought she’d see in her lifetime, much less within the first decade of her career as a nurse. “You prepare to be adaptive and adjust to changes in the medical field,” Katie says. “But even with that, I don’t know if you’re ever quite ready for a pandemic.”
For the bulk of her career at Maimonides Medical Center, Katie worked in adult oncology and medical surgical nursing. A year ago, she moved to the operating room. When the outbreak of COVID-19 first began, elective surgery cases were canceled, and nurses were reassigned to answer the demand of new patients. Katie offered to go back to her previous floor knowing they needed the help.
The situation has been “very stressful and a bit fearful” for Katie. She’s always loved being a nurse, but the uncertainty and longer hours have weighed on her and her colleagues. Several wings of the hospital once shut down for construction have opened back up. While the hospital is not at full capacity, a high number of patients throughout the hospital have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The hospital changes
Labor and delivery were shut down at the hospital, as well as ambulatory surgery. Both the Surgical ICU and Medical ICU are mostly taking coronavirus patients, and the pediatric unit has 17 adults with the virus. The oncology patients on her floor have been moved to a separate area so they are not at as high a risk of being exposed to coronavirus, she says, but the 30-bed unit is split in half between medical/surgical patients and COVID-19 patients.
“I’ve seen a lot of different emergency scenarios in the past 10 years,” Katie says. “I can deal with stressful situations, but in a time like this, you really rely on the support of your team. Being an efficient unit and banding together is one of the positive things I’ve seen come out of this experience. Many of our patients are coming in without family members, and they rely on the nursing staff to bring them back to health or help comfort them.”
Katie might be working with up to 15 patients on her own, without the assistance of CNAs or patient care techs, on one of the three to four 12-hour shifts she works a week. Sometimes those extend three or four hours depending on the needs of the unit, she says.
A supportive family
Through it all, her family has been incredibly supportive. While she can’t see her family right now, she regularly checks in with FaceTime or Zoom. And her husband, who refused to be quarantined from his wife, is there to help her in the few hours she is home each day. On her days off, Katie will read or go for a bike ride. She tries to spend time with her pets, do yoga, or meditate. She’s also started using a coloring book, she says, laughing, trying to do whatever she can to do something mindless.
Even in this challenging time, Katie is reminded of the foundation York College provided her to work in this field. “I’ve always thought of York College when I’m working with new graduates or even students on the floor,” she says. “The faculty there prepared me to go into the workforce and be an active member of the team. I feel I’m prepared to handle the situation the best I could be. It was a challenging education, but I reaped the benefits of that in the workforce.”
While she still works through the challenges of each day, Katie pulls on the strength of the mantra that’s been used by many at her hospital, and she thinks can apply to anyone waiting to see the world emerge from the coronavirus: “We will rise. We will heal. We will overcome.”