MINT HILL, NC – “The hospital was a battlefield,” recounts Mint Hill’s Janaria Nash, MBA, MSN, RN, of her recent deployment to work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. One of the many nurses caught between a rock and a hard place during this pandemic, Nash lost her position as an operating room nurse when the pandemic hit and elective surgeries were subject to postponement for an indeterminate amount of time. She took up work as a traveling nurse with Atrium Health in Pineville for a short period before agreeing to be part of a deployment of healthcare workers to New York from Krucial Staffing.
She insists that the news reports don’t reflect the harsh realities she experienced at both the Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx and King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn. On her first day of work, Ms. Nash was required to organize and document eleven bodies, many of which were classified as Jane/John Does due to the overwhelming conditions. Janaria claims that unresponsive patients that met certain criteria for symptoms of the disease were automatically classified as “DOA” (dead on arrival) as less critical patients were given priority. She saw people of all ages, from their young twenty-somethings to the elderly, and many just did not survive the disease.
As if these tragic conditions were not heartbreaking enough, deployed nurses like Janaria faced unexpected challenges from the hospital’s permanent staff. The resident nurses would try to hide undersupplied PPE (personal protection equipment) such as masks and gloves from the deployed nurses, interfering with their ability to follow protocol. Nurse’s aides and personal care attendants were overwhelmed and unable to complete their work tasks, leaving patients in unsanitary conditions.
The overcrowding in New York was incredibly problematic. Janaria cared for as many as four patients in one room because there was nowhere else to admit them to. She even recalls patients having to share rooms with the recently deceased. The patients would look at the body and ask Janaria, “Is that going to be me?” It was simply heartbreaking.
In addition to her work in the Emergency Room, Janaria also spent time caring for patients with mental health issues. She witnessed many patients who suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, anger issues, drug addiction, and suicidal ideations. A great number of these patients had lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic and never received closure due to restrictions on visitation. “They could only communicate with loved ones through a nurse or doctor,” Ms. Nash explained. “They never got to say that last good-bye in person.”
Janaria Nash became a nurse because she truly wants to make a difference, and caring for people is her passion. As a child, she remembers the nurses that assisted her grandmother during her battle with breast cancer. They always went above and beyond to not only care for her grandmother but also to make Janaria feel safe and cared for, providing her with snacks, reassurances, and a warm smile. That is the type of nurse she aspires to be.
Ultimately, Janaria doesn’t blame the hospitals. She is grateful for the work experience she has gained and for the opportunity to help as many people as she could. The precedent for this was simply not set, so there couldn’t have been any other outcome but this lack of preparation. Despite the horrors she faced during her 103-day deployment in New York, Janaria is considering another deployment to Texas or Florida. Finding work locally is proving to be a difficult feat due to COVID restrictions, and Janaria has a family to care for. She sincerely hopes that the residents of North Carolina take this pandemic seriously as she prepares to go “flatten the curve” in another state.