Virginia nurses answer the call to help areas hardest hit by COVID-19

Original WTVR Article
By: Shelby Brown

RICHMOND, Va. — For 27 years Nick Keene has been working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist or CRNA. These days—like many CRNA’s, he has found himself out of work since elective surgeries have been put on hold.

But, he’s still in the fight against COVID-19.

Nick is one of 12 local CRNAs who answered the call to head north to help in hard hit New York and New Jersey.

With blessings from his husband and family, Nick agreed to help and will be assigned to an intubation and code team at a New Jersey hospital.

“The final thought that guided my decision was what would happen to my family if the people who could help them didn’t show up because they were fearful? And if fear stopped me, what would that say about my character? It’s not something that I really wanted to live with,” Nick said.

Preparing for his trip meant reading, researching and watching videos. He said it was imperative to prepare academically and clinically to be able to do the job when he arrived.

“From the proper way of donning and doffing PPEs, knowing how to treat patients, what’s the safest way for me to take care of myself and take care of them,” Nick added.

CRNA Robin Blanchard knows exactly what a sacrifice Nick and others are making.

“People are leaving their safe homes and families. Just the passion they hold for being a nurse anesthetist and being a provider, stepping up and taking on that role with such dedication is unfounded,” Blanchard said.

Dr. Howie Goodwin, President of the Virginia Association of Nursing Anesthetists, says CRNAs are stepping up in big ways. He explained they are serving in Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps, being deployed on two US Navy hospital ships, while others head north to lighten the load for colleagues who are inundated.

“They have an opportunity. Fifty percent of our CRNAs are unemployed at this point, so they are finding ways to give back through volunteering or if they need to find work, they’re doing that. It is no surprise to me that they are stepping up in this way to meet the needs of surrounding communities,” Goodwin added.

Nick says he and the other CRNAs headed up North will be able to infuse some positive energy into their colleagues who are working around the clock.

“We have felt like they are drowning and we hope we go up as a bit of a life preserver. That we can give them time to get their heads above water,” Nick added.

Nick left for New Jersey Thursday morning at 7 a.m. with his first 12 hour shift scheduled that evening at 7 p.m. He’s committed to serving in New Jersey until May 1.

Other CRNA’s will head to New York and New Jersey next Monday.

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