Newell (left) poses with TMU graduate, and colleague, Maria Kayondo.

Truett McConnell University (TMU) nursing alumni are finding themselves on the front lines treating patients with COVID-19 in hospitals around the country. Mary Newell, a 2019 graduate of the Rielin & Salmen School of Nursing, recently shared her personal account of working as a medical-surgical nurse in an oncology, respiratory, and hospice floor during the coronavirus pandemic and how her hospital experiences are helping her to become a better nurse.

The experience has not been without its challenges. Newell said “there is a lot of uncertainty” as her area of the hospital received the first COVID patients. “We were concerned, of course, that this was something no one had seen before, and we were not really sure how to fight it, but the fundamentals of nursing are quintessential in these types of situations.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Newell has learned to face unexpected challenges as the hospital prepared her floor for the inflow of coronavirus patients.

“When the hospital realized they would need more ICU beds to treat our COVID patients,” she explained, “they turned my med-surg floor into an ICU unit. This meant that my co-workers and I would no longer have the consistency of working our floor since we are not ICU nurses. We have been placed in the float pool which means we are often assigned a different floor for each shift.”

The first-year nurse said the new routine has caused uncertainty, but she is proud of how well she and her co-corkers have handled the transition.

As she and her colleagues face daily challenges, Newell said, “spending time with the Savior” each morning has kept her strong. “Every day before I start my shift, I have a quiet time and a time of prayer for my co-workers, my patients, and my shift.” Her husband John, who works at TMU, has been “supportive and my anchor” through these times.

Looking back on her time at Truett McConnell, Newell is thankful for the guidance of her professors, who, as nurses themselves, could share real world experiences and practical scenarios in the classroom.

“The nursing faculty [at TMU] taught us about past pandemics and how they were handled. During skill labs, they were consistent in pointing out times when I was not wearing my personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly or if I had taken it off incorrectly and risked contamination.”

“However,” she said, “learning about pandemics in a book is one thing, living through it on the frontlines is another.”

When asked about advice she would give to prospective nursing students Newell said, “Nursing is a calling and not about making money.”

“These patients come to us at their worst,” she said, “and we are to be a calm voice in a storm of uncertainty. In the middle of this pandemic where so little is known about the virus, many patients believe that a positive COVID test is the end of the world. For those who are considering nursing, there will be times like this in the future. You have to be prepared to face the unknown and even compromise your own health for the sake of others.”

“Yet,” she adds, “there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you were there for them when no one else was, that you listened when they felt they were not being heard, and that you held their hand as they took their last breath.”


Jenny Gregory is the Digital Marketing Specialist for TMU Marketing and Communications.

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