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WSSU alumna helps fight COVID-19 in New York City hospital

WSSU alumna, Kayla Cummins, takes a 10-week nursing assignment in a New York City hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WSSU alumna Kayla Cummins’16 packed her bags and headed to New York City to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic during a time when the city was a hotspot for the virus.

Cummins accepted a travel position as an emergency department nurse in a New York hospital. After three weeks on the job, WSSU News caught up with Cummins to find out how her experience has been so far.

Here are 8 questions with… Kayla Cummins.

How has your experience as a nurse in NYC amid the COVID-19 pandemic been so far?
So far, I have seen many COVID-19 patients. I have been in with the intubations and taken care of patients on the ventilators. I have been able to assist patients in FaceTiming their loved ones - no one is allowed to have visitors at this point. I have also seen the normal emergency department patient and I finally had my first COVID-19 negative patient. It was several shifts before I had a patient that wasn’t COVID positive. I am surrounded by amazing nurses and doctors that are very positive and encouraging through all of this.

Nurses are playing a critical role in helping mitigate this pandemic. How has being on the frontline changed your perspective about your profession?
I don’t feel any different about nursing since being in New York. If anything, I am more appreciative of my experiences and education prior to COVID-19 because I feel very well prepared to assist here. I was paired with another nurse for 12 hours to learn their charting system and policies, but outside of that, nursing is nursing. I was able to jump right in.

Social distancing has been the key messages during this crisis. How have you been able to stay safe while still connecting with your patients?
I wear multiple layers of protection when caring for patients here. The emergency department has placed a scrub dispensing machine on the unit. We can get one pair of scrubs from the machine to change into, so we do not have to wear the scrubs in our cars going home and then we return them after our shift. There are also gloves, gowns, and surgical masks available on the unit. N95 masks, goggles, and face shields are being re-worn at this time until soiled or wet.

You’re a 2016 graduate of WSSU’s School of Health Sciences, did your education prepare you to handle the demands you are currently facing? If so, how?
I feel that I was very well prepared by WSSU’s nursing program. Cherra Timberlake-Blount and Sandra Green were two clinical instructors in particular that played a big role in my nursing education. They were with me on the units as a student nurse - challenging me, educating me, and molding me into the nurse that I am today. I am still in contact with them to this day and I am very thankful for all of their knowledge they shared with me as a student.

How have your friends and family supported you through this?
My friends and family have been very supportive. Outside of donating masks/supplies, I have had friends and even complete strangers ask what I need almost daily. People have provided me with meals, supplies, coffee - you name it - somebody has offered it to me. I am very grateful for all of the support!

What is it like being in New York City, one of the busiest cities in the country, during this time? What are you seeing?
New York has been moving very slowly since I have been here. It is definitely not the normal for this area. There is never traffic. I get to work in about 15 minutes and people, for the most part, are staying home.

What has kept you going during this stressful time? How do you decompress?
I have been able to decompress by Face Timing with friends and family. I also brought as much gym equipment with me as possible and I have continued working out in my hotel room. On my days off, I rest a lot. For the past two weeks, I have worked 50+ hours each week.

What are your post COVID-19 plans?
I have been thinking about this every couple of days. After this assignment, I am not sure what life will look like for me. I hope that other areas are not hit this hard, but if they are, I plan to travel to the next place and continue to assist in the emergency departments. I love being a cosmetic nurse and I love emergency medicine as well. I hope to be able to continue doing both when this is all over.

More: Winston-Salem State grad packing her bags, moving to fight COVID-19 as nurse in New York City hospitals

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