York College recent Nursing graduate works on the front line at Johns Hopkins Hospital ER
The line of cars stretched outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Room in Baltimore as Robbie Foster December ’20 tested patients for COVID-19. As each car pulled up to the testing tent, a patient opened the door, swung their feet to face the nursing student, were administered the test, and given some literature before driving off. About 90 patients were tested that day alone. “My York College professors have always told me that nurses have to be adaptive,” he says. “That’s been in the back of my mind a lot lately.”
Foster has been working as an extern at Johns Hopkins Hospital ER since January. It’s a job he signed up for in hopes that the ER experience would give him some new experiences to add to his résumé. He never expected one of those experiences to be a global pandemic.
While he learns to adapt to testing patients at a COVID-19 testing tent one day and working in the ER the next, Foster says he isn’t alone. A little less than half of pediatric intensive care at the hospital is filled with adults. When he comes in for a shift he works where he is needed most.
The balance of online classes with his externship has proved to be stressful, Foster admits, especially because he feels he should sign up for extra hours to help at the hospital. When he is home, he appreciates the one-credit yoga course he signed up for this year. His regular practice of yoga and meditation has helped him feel grounded when there seems to be a lot of uncertainty in the world.
“I feel fortunate to have the externship I do at Johns Hopkins,” Foster says. “They are incredibly prepared and have been a great company to work for, especially during this time.” He’s also found a terrific team of mentors at Johns Hopkins, as well as some other students, who have supported each other as they deal with the added pressure of helping people during the COVID-19 outbreak.
‘What nursing is all about’
Even though he’s seen some nurses retire early for fear of exposure and knows of others who quit because of the stress, Foster says he’s proud to be working in the hospital. “This is just something we’re meant to do. I don’t think it’s super extraordinary or anything,” he says. “We all signed up to be there and help patients. It’s our job to stand up for them and always take care of them. Pandemic or not, that’s what we have to do.”
Foster hopes that the experience makes him a more resilient nurse. He would love to continue working at Johns Hopkins to further the relationships he’s made there, and he hopes to look back and be proud of the contributions he made to help patients who were suffering. He says, “If I can get through something like COVID-19 and serve my patients with the skills I’ve learned, I think I’ve found what nursing is all about.”