"In nursing school they don't really prepare you for a pandemic, but LRU’s nursing programs prepare you to be the best possible nurse in the face of just about anything." - Samantha Sham '17, BSN '19
Nursing alumna Samantha Sham has learned to navigate a new normal while caring for critical patients in the Medical Surgical ICU Unit at UPMC Passavant. COVID-19 has not only upended her work environment—but also her home life.
“The way we work has changed, and wearing a mask for 12 hours every shift has become the normal way of life now,” she said. “We frequently check our temperatures at home because we may have been exposed to COVID-19 at some point during our shifts. Most of us stay in hotels or any place where we don’t run the risk of exposing our loved ones. There is a cloud of uneasiness that follows us.”
As hospital policies change in response to the pandemic, so do visitor restrictions. Because families are unable to visit in person, Ms. Sham and her colleagues are the ones to comfort end-of-life patients at their bedside and connect them with their loved ones.
“The hardest part of caring for these patients is the fact that families are not allowed to visit,” she said. “When our ICU doctors have exhausted all medical care and the family makes the choice to stop treatment, the nurses become that patient’s family.”
In these final moments, Ms. Sham offers her presence, whether by sitting with the patient or holding their hand. Other times she uses FaceTime to call their family members.
“There is a lot of sadness in this pandemic—not just for the families of the sick, but for the staff as well,” Ms. Sham said.
COVID-19 is a reality Ms. Sham wasn’t prepared to face, but she said she relies on her education to confront the challenges. A La Roche University nursing alumna, she obtained her BSN and is now pursuing her master’s degree.
“In nursing school they don't really prepare you for a pandemic, but LRU’s nursing programs prepare you to be the best possible nurse in the face of just about anything,” she said.