Several nurses who worked at Mount Sinai South Nassau at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and retired in recent months have volunteered to inoculate hospital staff members and first responders there.
“It truly is a community hospital,” retired nurse Maureen McGovern said. “The people there came out in force to support the patients who were there, the staff worked tirelessly throughout the whole pandemic, the community came out to support the members of the staff at the hospital. I just felt I needed to support the hospital staff. This is my community, so I need to do something to help my own community.”
McGovern is one of many retired nurses who are volunteering their time to help administer the vaccine three times a week in eight-hour shifts. She previously worked as director of risk management and a patient safety officer at the hospital from January 2006 until last July. Her role shifted in the spring, when the hospital saw its peak surge of coronavirus patients, McGovern said. One of her new duties was distributing personal protective equipment to staff at all hours, including on weekends.
“It was a house full of Covid patients,” McGovern recalled. “It wasn’t regular business. The risk management de-partment ceased being the risk management department because we were needed for other functions.”
The vaccine, she said, offers hope that things might return to normal soon. That is why, McGovern said, many recently retired staffers like her have returned to the hospital. In addition to the loss of life, she said, the pandemic has taken a drastic mental and financial toll on many people.
She described the mood of MSSN staffers as the initial wave of first responders has come to be vaccinated as “joyous,” adding that anyone who is wary of being inoculated should take comfort in seeing doctors hurrying to be vaccinated. She called it an “historic moment” to deliver the first round of vaccines, and said that she was hopeful it was a step toward normalcy.
“It’s wonderful to think in maybe six months this is going to go away,” she said. “I’m hopeful that it is, because you can’t stretch the health care system any further than it’s already stretched trying to operate in a pandemic situation for months and months on end. “
Nurse Louise Malone said she also saw much grief at the height of the pandemic, but the vaccine gives her hope. She was director of service excellence in administration from January 2015 until last July. When the call came for nurse volunteers, she didn’t hesitate.
During the height of the pandemic, Malone helped acquire iPads for patients so they could FaceTime with their loved ones, fielded phone calls from patients’ family members so she could update them on their condition and helped retrieve materials that patients lost when they were transferred to different wings of the hospital amid the surge.
Now that a vaccine has been developed, Malone said, it’s vital to inoculate as many people as possible, and she is happy that she can help. “To me, we have to get the vaccine in people’s arms because that is what’s going to help us get back to some semblance of normalcy,” she said, “so I know that’s what we have to do to go on. The staff is exhausted, and knowing what they stepped up to do, I had to go in to help them.”
Much like McGovern, Malone said that if people are skeptical about the vaccines, they should look to the physicians who have researched them well and are jumping to be inoculated.
Malone started vaccinating staff members in December, and last week the hospital inoculated the first wave of first responders. On Jan. 6, the volunteers began giving the second round of vaccines to staff members who received the first shot last month.
Malone said she has had the chance to help a staff that was stretched thin, but rose to the occasion throughout the pandemic. “I think it’s so important that everybody gets this vaccine . . .,” she said. “I just had to help.”