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Richmond nurse describes working in New York City ER: 'These patients are so sick'

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Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 18:46:01-04

BRONX, N.Y. -- A Richmond nurse volunteered to work at a New York City hospital located inside the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis.

Clare Shanley signed up with an emergency medical response staffing company that assigned her to a hospital in the Bronx.

She arrived to New York City on Friday to begin her assignment in that hospital’s intensive care unit.

Shanley counted herself among about 600 healthcare workers staying in her Manhattan hotel that have traveled to help during the crisis.

“I really feel that, as a nurse, being part of this pandemic and taking care of these patients could be one of the most important things I ever do in my career,” she stated.

The Richmond emergency department nurse will work 12 hour shifts for 21-days straight.

“Working in healthcare, this is something we trained for,” Shanley said. “It didn't really feel like I was throwing myself off into the middle of something. It just felt like something that I was supposed to do.”

New York saw more than 730 deaths reported in the past 24 hours. Thursday marked the worst day since the coronavirus outbreak began bring the state’s total up to nearly 5,500 deaths, according to officials.

“The acuity is just insane,” Shanley explained. “These patients are so sick. But, it's just chaos. Every day there are more and more healthcare workers coming to New York and being assigned to the hospital. So, everyday there's a little bit more help, which has been wonderful.”

She described a camaraderie with the traveling nurses that merged with the hospital staff. Shanley urged first responders in Virginia where the peak of the virus has yet to hit to get prepared.

“I would say get lots of rest now and drink lots of water because you're not going to get a chance to do that when this does hit,” she explained. I think just prepare yourself mentally and it is exhausting.”

Shanley wears a plastic face shield that covers the N95 respirator she wears her entire shift.

“With our personal protective equipment that hasn't been so much of an issue. We are running out of gowns, but they switched us to the surgical gowns today. So, I still feel safe going into my patient's room,” she explained. “I have not seen anyone having to wear their own personal protective equipment. I think that the administration here is really doing everything they can to keep us safe and give us the supplies that we need.“

Shanley remarked about the New Yorkers who have cheered on the first responders at shift change and strangers who speak to her on the street.

“Every night at seven here in New York people will lean out their windows and start cheering and applauding. I’ve seen people hanging out their windows banging pots and pans,” she recalled. “Just to have that love and support from people I don't even know really does help me come in in the morning.”

Thursday marked her fourth day on the job, but she shared a warning to residents back home.

She urged Virginia to continue social distancing and stay home to prevent the widespread cases overwhelming hospitals in New York.

Shanley hoped to return to Richmond and use her experience to help during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic here. However, she may have to quarantine for 14 days when she comes back.