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Nursing stories from the front lines of the COVID-19 response

 Marchelle Boyd ’15 – ‘We Need to Get More Nurses to Come Out Here’
Headshot of Marchelle Boyd in her NNUsring Uniform

Marchelle Boyd’15 is a primary nurse in a hospital working with COVID-19 patients. She is a graduate student in Caldwell’s Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program.

Working in a hospital COVID-19 unit, Marchelle Boyd’15 is more convinced than ever that she wants to teach the next generation of nurses.  “We need to get more nurses to come out here –out into the fight,” said Boyd, a primary nurse at a small community regional hospital and a graduate student in Caldwell’s Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program. “It is a war zone,” she said of the battle she and her colleagues take up each day to do their best for coronavirus patients and their families. The virus has limited how often she can go into patients’ rooms. Much of the leg work is done on the phone with patients and their family members. The hallways are quieter and everyone – whether a patient or a healthcare worker-is masked.   Even in the last moments of life, some patients are alone. This is the raw, eye-opening reality of administering health care through this pandemic. Yet, in the midst of the fragility, Boyd sees an outpouring of support. Leadership is making the rounds more. “It feels good to feel supported and appreciated and checked on more,” she said.  Employees are there for each other.  “We are leaning on each other more—we are more supportive to fellow colleagues,” said Boyd, an alumna of Caldwell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

Picture of Marchelle Boyd, graduate student in Caldwell’s Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program.

Even though volunteers cannot come into the hospital, they are standing with the health care professionals in other ways.  “I stopped having to bring my lunch,” said Boyd, because of all of the outside merchants who are donating food to the hospital. A high school student who normally volunteers at the hospital raised $2,000 for the health care workers, and someone else donated Crocs for nursing shoes.

Through the intensity of challenges, Boyd relies on the support of friends, family, and colleagues from the Middlesex Regional Black Nurses Association, of which she is chapter president.  The professional nursing organization is a part of the National Black Nurses Association.

As a current graduate nursing student, Boyd is eager to share what she has seen on the front lines with future nursing students. “This outbreak is shining a light on the nursing shortage and probably upcoming nursing shortage due to this pandemic,” says Boyd citing a study from the World Health Organization stating that there is a global shortfall of 5.9 million nurses and another study from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing showing that master’s and doctoral programs in nursing are not producing enough nurse educators to meet demand.  “I hope to close the gap from the lack of higher nursing educators. I want to educate and teach the next generation of nursing professionals.”


Peter Toscak:  Serving in the hospital emergency room through COVID-19
Picture of Peter Toscak ‘21, an undergraduate student in the BSN program, is an emergency room clinical technician working during the pandemic

Peter Toscak ‘21, an undergraduate student in the BSN program, is an emergency room clinical technician working during the pandemic.

Peter Toscak’s ’21 work in a hospital emergency room these days involves quite a bit of passing instruments to doctors and nurses and doing a lot of cleaning—making sure everyone is safe. As an emergency room clinical technician prior to COVID19, Toscak would assist with rapid treatments, draw blood, give flu tests and administer points of care testing like urine tests and blood sugars. Now, with the pandemic underway, his work has transitioned to making sure the nurses and doctors can facilitate proper care which translates to getting everything set in place for them.  It is a “scary time”, says Toscak, a nursing student in Caldwell’s undergraduate nursing program. But it also a time where he is learning from the nurses and doctors who he watches every day. “It is a team effort…everything that took minutes, takes hours” and in particular that means the cleaning.

It is hard to see the reality of this virus. Toscak wears full personal protective equipment that he brings home to clean with specific instructions including how to use bleach.

He began working in the emergency room in 2017 and discovered right away that he wanted to pursue nursing studies. “I saw the true impact nurses were having on patients day-to-day.” Upon graduation, he wants to continue working in an emergency room, then move on to an intensive care unit and then military nursing perhaps in a flight mobile intensive nursing unit.

With Caldwell University classes now being taught remotely. Toscak appreciates how the nursing professors transitioned so quickly and that they are willing “to change up things so everyone learns at their best.”   He sees clearly how the coronavirus will make future nurses face their careers with even more fortitude and professionalism.  “Nursing students need to be extremely diligent and prepared to enter the workforce.”


Danielle Schiavone’19 – Grateful for the mentoring from senior nursing staff during COVID-19

 Danielle Schiavone ’19 was thrilled to obtain her dream job of working with children in a pediatric intensive care unit right out of the nursing program at Caldwell University.

Headshot of Danielle Schiavone

Danielle Schiavone ’19 is a nurse working in the hospital responding to COVID-19 patients.

She cares for kids with different illnesses, the most common of which were respiratory viruses, neurologic conditions, trauma, and cancer. “Some are very sick, on ventilators and receiving life-saving medications, and others are on the mend but not well enough yet to go to an acute care unit,” explained Schiavone. To her, it has been an honor to meet the brave children and their parents. “Kids are resilient and their caregivers are courageous.”

Her days are different now; instead of working exclusively with a population of sick children and young people up to the age of 21, she is seeing adults who have COVID-19.  As tough as it is, she is grateful to have the mentoring and support of senior nursing staff at the large research and teaching hospital.  They are constantly checking in with her — “taking time to explain it all to me and making sure I feel comfortable,” said Schiavone.    In her Caldwell nursing classes she was warned of some senior nurses who can push Picture of Danielle Schiavone during her graduation ceremonyaround the less experienced.  “It could not be farther from that—we are all very close,” said Schiavone of her current experiences.   She is appreciative of her more experienced colleagues as she learns from them and they work together in administering critical nursing health care in these trying times.   She is also thankful that they are wearing hospital-supplied scrubs. “We can return them at the end of our shift and do not have to wear the same uniform home that we wore to care for COVID patients.”