“I’ve learned new skills that will benefit my patients for the rest of my career,” says Keila Soto ’13, as she reflects on how COVID-19 has shaped her as a nursing professional. “I am prouder than ever to be a nurse despite the difficulties of this pandemic. I have witnessed firsthand that we ARE stronger together.”
Keila began working as a registered nurse after graduation in 2013 at Salem Hospital on a surgical floor, taking care of patients pre- and post-general surgical procedures.
“I love my work because depending on my patients’ diagnosis, I can help them avoid surgery or if surgery is necessary, I help them recover and it is so rewarding to watch them improve,” Keila says. “I have loved meeting so many different people. Each of my patients teaches me something new through our conversations.”
The arrival of COVID-19 changed Keila’s work completely. “We could not do surgical procedures anymore and my floor quickly changed into a COVID ICU,” she says.
Keila was cross-trained to care for patients on ventilators and worked alongside an ICU nurse, taking care of patients who could no longer talk or interact with her because they were intubated and sedated.
“I was no longer confident in my patients’ survival and sadly I did have to experience much more fatalities than I have ever seen in my career as an RN,” she shares about her experience in the COVID ICU.
Having two small children and a husband at home, Keila was also scared about contracting the virus and bringing it home. She had to change her entire routine to protect herself and her family as much as she could.
But despite these negative and at times frightening aspects of being a nurse during the pandemic, Keila felt the support of her fellow RNs and was able to participate in the teamwork and gain more confidence in this new kind of patient care.
“After weeks of being ill, some patients were improving and I again started to feel pride rather than fear,” she says.
Keila believes she is a stronger nurse because of this pandemic.