Carolyn Scott ’14 (nursing) was working at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis when officials in New York, one of the hardest-hit locations in the U.S., issued an emergency order and a plea for additional medical staff. Scott, who is also licensed to practice in New York, answered the call, working directly with COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Brooklyn for eight weeks.
This is her story, in her own words:
I had been working in California for the last five years and missed my home, so I came back to Indiana in October of 2019. I returned to my roots at the hospital that I started bedside nursing – Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital. I bought a house, and was really happy with my job, learning and expanding my knowledge in the critical care department there. It felt really good to have settled back into my community in Indianapolis, and I had no plans to leave. I was working in Intermediate – ICU, where the management and my coworkers were really great at fostering my growth as a nurse. I enjoyed my travel contracts on the west coast, but no place felt quite like Eskenazi or matched the culture there.
Then the pandemic happened, and I saw the growing need in New York. I had gotten my NY nursing license a couple of years ago, thinking I might travel there at some point, but never thought it would be for a virus infecting the city that would ultimately bring me there to work…
I continued working at Eskenazi, and our cases of COVID were rising, but they were nowhere near the extreme rates happening in New York. I received emails from Andrew Cuomo asking for healthcare professionals to consider coming out to help, and hearing him speak on the news really did compel me to consider going more. I wrestled with the decision for three weeks. On one hand, I was just getting settled in my new home and was so happy with my current position at the hospital.
What if I got sick, and I had no one in the city that could help take care of me…? What if the conditions were really bad and I couldn’t handle it…? What if there wasn’t enough PPE? What if I had no job to return to after my contract there? What if I got it and was one of the rare young people who had serious complications and never came back…?
I didn’t want to leave my family, friends, coworkers, and community here in Indy, but after seeking counsel, speaking with different people in my life, and praying/ meditating, I decided I needed to go. I always wanted to do as much as I could with the nursing degree I got from UIndy and put my skills to work and serve those in need. As much as I knew there was still need here in Indy…there was even more need in New York right then.
Everyone has their role to play, and as a fairly healthy, single woman with no children or spouse that relies on me, I felt I was the exact person that should heed the call to go to help. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and I felt an immense sadness to leave Eskenazi Hospital. My last shift, I tried to keep my composure but broke down as I turned in my badge knowing I might never get to work at my favorite hospital again. I hoped I might be able to get a small leave of absence to go and help in NY and then return to Eskenazi, but their requirements for notice changed once the pandemic came, and I was ineligible for rehire.
I questioned if I made the right decision and felt a lot of guilt. What if it got really bad here, and I had left them? Ultimately, I knew Eskenazi (with their great leadership and staff) would be okay, and I felt confident that I would be more useful in New York during this time. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I would always look back and think I could’ve helped, but I decided to stay where I felt more comfortable, and I would be disappointed in my decision.
As difficult as the decision was, after the first couple shifts I knew I had 100% made the right decision in going to the frontlines. The hospital I was at in Brooklyn, New York was converting unit after unit to COVID ICU. I had seen this already at Eskenazi, as the need for my critical care beds were needed, but this was a whole new level. For intake reports, it was hardly even necessary to ask about the patient’s COVID status…everyone was positive.
I was impressed with how the resident staff embraced us newcomers. They had been working so hard already. You could see the exhaustion and weariness on many of their faces; the effects of what they had already seen and been through. We had been starting to have more cases in Indianapolis, but they were under a major surge and had been picking up extra shifts to try to meet the staffing needs. They NEEDED more staff, they needed reinforcements, and it felt really good to be there, and hopefully take a little of the workload off of them.
As difficult as it was, I would do it again. I am so proud of all the wonderful people I had the privilege to work alongside in Indiana and New York, and all those that stepped up everywhere during this pandemic. I’m also beyond grateful for all the people who encouraged me, supported me, prayed for me, and sent their love to me. It really was what got me through the dark times.
I worked my last shift of my 8-week “COVID-crisis” contract Thursday, June 4th at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Brooklyn Methodist. I thought I was going to go home to Indianapolis for a week and then return, but I am no longer extending at this time. As the hospitals try to plan for the future and determine their staffing needs for the coming weeks and months, I am trying to be patient and rebalance at home for whatever comes next. I have been talking with my recruiter about other contracts possibly in D.C. or back to NY. I’m glad to have this time to relax and catch up with my friends and family though.
Ultimately, none of this would have been possible without my education at UIndy. I often think about how fortunate I was to be able to get my nursing degree. There are so many more talented and hardworking people out there that lack the opportunities I was afforded, and I want to never take my privilege to obtain my degree for granted. My parents believed in me, even when I had my doubts on if I would be able to make it through nursing school, and that was such an important part of my success, in school and now in my career. They were understandably hesitant in the beginning for me to go to New York, but once we discussed it more, they gave me their support in my decision.
I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to get to go to UIndy until I first started working as a nurse, and it finally clicked. Wow, I get to be a nurse. I absolutely love my profession. I love being able to care for people, and trying to help them feel better. My education at UIndy prepared me for that. I actually think of many of my nursing professors while I’m working; different things that they said during lectures glued in my mind that I’ll recall as I’m caring for my patients. The textbooks taught me the knowledge I needed, but I don’t remember reading specific chapters; I remember the experiences and wisdom that my professors shared and the clinicals that made me understand what it really meant to be a good nurse.
I received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Indianapolis, but it gave me so much more than that. It helped me recognize that I have been given an enormous gift of an excellent education, and I am capable of so much because of that.
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