1. How did you get into nursing as a profession?
My dad was a nurse and he influenced me. At first I was hesitant because there weren’t a lot of guys in the field when I started. My friends kind of laughed when I went to nursing school after high school, but I loved it. I’m a people person and I like working in a field where I can help others. I also liked learning about anatomy and the human body. Now a lot of my friends, who laughed at me back then, are going back to school to become nurses themselves.
2. The coronavirus has changed nursing in many ways. What’s your average day like?
I work 12-hour shifts, six days a week and then I’m on call. But I feel like if the hospital needs me, I might as well work that extra day to help out my community — it’s not like I can do anything, or go anywhere, when I’m at home. We’ve been lucky with personal protective equipment, since we’ve always had it; but as things have become more serious, we’ve started rationing.
3. You work in the epicenter of the pandemic in the state. Do you worry about getting sick?
I believe every day that I might have it. But, since I don’t have any symptoms, I haven’t gotten tested — I don’t want to waste a test. My dad is scared for me. I just want my parents to stay home. I can’t picture them being sick like that. We have about 80 to 90 percent COVID-19 patients at my hospital. Typically all the patients I care for are having respiratory issues. The worst part is seeing colleagues get sick. Your heart just drops.
4. In your 20s you competed in mixed martial arts. Any correlation between nursing and fighting?
I trained in martial arts throughout my childhood. One of my friends was training to compete in MMA and I got into it. I loved the thrill of it. In 2008, I tried out for a reality television show, and I made it to the finals. I stayed active until 2017, when I retired. I fought in places like Brazil, the Philippines and at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn in front of my hometown crowd. It was an amazing experience.
MMA prepared me for nursing. When you’re fighting in front of 18,000 people, you’ve got to stay focused. That can be hard to do when your emotions and adrenaline are flowing. When I’m dealing with an emergency at work, it’s the same thing. I’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand so I can do my job.
5. Any last thoughts?
I want to give a big shout out to all the health care workers on the front line, from nurses and doctors, to housekeepers and security workers, to everyone else who enters the hospital to work. Everyone needs to be recognized. Fighting this virus is like fighting a war and we’re all in the trenches together, risking our health and the health of our families to do our jobs. I have so much respect for everyone I work with; that includes my union reps who not only work to provide patient care, but to also protect our workplace rights. We will overcome this and, I believe, it will bring us all closer.