Frontline Nursing

May 04, 2020 - 3 minute read


Nurse Woods

CUI alumna Stephanie Woods BSN ’17 works in the emergency room at Hoag Hospital in Irvine, and has served on the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 crisis and response. When hospitals went into disaster preparedness mode, “we didn’t know what was coming or exactly how to handle it,” she says.

When patients came in with COVID-19 symptoms, one nurse did what a team of nurses normally did in conducting an assessment, making documentation, starting an IV and more, to limit the number of medical staff exposed to the virus.

“It became very stressful to take care of patients,” Woods says. “Because COVID was unknown to everybody, we didn’t even know what protective equipment to use. There was a sense of anxiety and uncertainty among nurses initially.”

The staff got up to speed quickly, although challenges remained in the new reality.

“Every single patient, no matter what they are coming in for, is concerned that they have COVID, which makes it more difficult to diagnose them because often we are not getting correct information from them,” Woods says. “Say they came in for a twisted knee. They start almost panicking wondering if they have COVID symptoms. There’s a lot of patient education, reassurance, informing them exactly what the signs are. There are a lot of psycho-social aspects to nursing, more now than ever before.”

CUI’s faith-based approach has proven especially important during the pandemic when, because of limitations on visitors, nurses are often the last contact someone has before being intubated or taking their last breath.

Contrary to expectations, the volume of patients per day dropped by more than 50 percent, apparently because people were so scared to get COVID that they wouldn’t go to the hospital for other problems.

“The ones coming in are either very serious or really shouldn’t be there at all,” Woods says. “We’re getting one extreme or the other rather than the normal spectrum of things.”

Woods has been a nurse for nearly 11 years, and serves as an adjunct clinical instructor at CUI. She says CUI’s faith-based approach has proven especially important during the pandemic when, because of limitations on visitors, nurses are often the last contact someone has before being intubated or taking their last breath.

“Nothing I learned in school could have prepared me for a pandemic, but having faith incorporated into my learning is what I'm leaning on most right now,” Woods says. “Since we are not allowing visitors, I have found myself spending more time with patients. I find that we are having more conservations. I pull up a chair and talk to them about anything and everything. I've found myself praying a lot more with patients — more now than ever before. I have found myself holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath because their family is out in the parking lot, not able to come in. I pray for my patients throughout my day. It brings me a sense of calm and peace during this uncertain time.”

She also is comforting CUI nursing students distressed about having their careers delayed.

“I tell them everything’s going to be okay. You guys will learn, you’ll graduate. You’ll be fine,” Woods says. “As nurses, we take it one day at a time. We are trained to go with the flow. The university is doing everything they can to advocate for them and make this all work.”

To make the situation even more intense, Woods’ husband works at Costco and also feels the brunt of people’s frustrations, “so we’re getting it from both ends,” Stephanie says with a laugh. “I’ve already told my dad he has to take the kids for a week when this ends.”

For now, she is using her experience and CUI education to make things better for patients in her care.

“People call us heroes, but this is my passion and my career. This is what we do,” she says. “Any nurse is awestruck by the outpouring of love that our community has given us over the past few months. But we became nurses because we love helping people.”

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