2020 Nursing Page Update

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How York College prepared Penn Medicine nurse for every step of her career

head and shoulders of Laurie

On any given day, Laurie Meadows ’02 could be assisting someone with cardiac arrest, caring for a person who came in from a car crash, or even more recently, treating a COVID-19 patient. As a member of the Rapid Response Team at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Medicine) in Philadelphia, Meadows never knows what the day might require of her. “I may not have known it at the time, but York College set up the perfect foundation for me,” she says. “I always thought it was a challenging program. Now I see why that was so important.”

Meadows started working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Penn Medicine about 15 years ago. When she landed in her current position as a Nursing Clinical Coordinator and a member of the Rapid Response Team, she pulled on her experience of working with the most critically ill patients to working anywhere throughout the hospital where urgent care is needed.

New precautions

When COVID-19 patients started arriving at Penn Medicine in March, Meadows’ job changed in many ways. The most immediate change was how she approached patients. Before COVID-19, she ran toward anyone who needed her help without a second thought. Now, she must follow strict protocols that require her to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and take extra precautions so as not to endanger herself or other patients. “You assume in the back of your mind that everyone is infected,” she says. “When you approach a patient in that way, it forces you to be very cautious and take proper steps.”

Meadows also found herself missing interactions with patients’ family members. Because hospitals had to take strict steps to limit visitors, medical professionals can no longer rely on family members to share lists of medications, medical history, or even explain why the person was coming to the hospital in the first place. “You could say my job became a lot more stressful,” she says.

Rising to the occasion

Despite the stress, Meadows has seen uplifting moments that help her get through the long days. She witnesses a lot of collaboration and innovation among her coworkers. They no longer do things “just because that’s how it’s been done,” but they look for how to streamline processes and make better decisions. “Stressful situations can really test you,” she says. “You can either rise to the occasion or fall apart. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people rise to the occasion.”

The experience of the past few months has never pushed Meadows to question why she became a nurse. With a long family line of nurses, including aunts and her grandmother, she can’t imagine steering away from a career that means so much to her. “Like a lot of nurses, I believe we’re meant to be here for moments like this,” she says. “This is when people really need us.”