Meet the helpers: Salvationist ICU nurse shares about serving in the pandemic
If you drive by your local hospital, chances are you’ll see a big sign of thanks, like: Heroes work here. Medical professionals across the world are applauded by people at home each day, a sign of gratitude for those putting themselves at risk to care for people sick during the pandemic. While long considered the “unsung heroes” of global health, nurses today are unsung no more. We caught up with an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse in San Francisco, Jenny Mao, who is also a member of The Salvation Army to hear more about how she’s helping in the midst of COVID-19 and what she is seeing from the frontlines of service.
What is your connection to The Salvation Army?
As part of The Salvation Army since 1996, I have a big church family all over the world. The Salvation Army SoMa Corps in San Francisco is my immediate church family, but I also served three summers as part of the Army’s summer missions program for young adults, called Service Corps. I spent three summers in Africa and two in Micronesia.
Can you share more about your work? What is it like on the frontlines of service right now?
Now as an ICU nurse in Sutter California Pacific Medical Center, I can share that it is an uncertain time. This virus is scary and fast-spreading; that is why sheltering in place is so important. It hits the young adults and the older adults. It is a virus that we don’t know much about and we are still learning. This is such a different time we are in right now. We have a no visitor policy for patients except in certain circumstances (parent of a pediatric patient, your partner is actively giving birth or a family member is actively dying—then one family member may stay).
As nurses, we feel for our patients who have to be in the hospital alone. We are afraid that we will run out of personal protective equipment to protect ourselves. We are afraid of getting sick ourselves and making our families sick. We are afraid we will run out of N95 masks (ones that filter out particles) so we are using them sparingly and our charge nurse checks one out to us. We are wearing a protective surgical mask (ones that do not filter particles but protect against a cough or sneeze). We are screened coming into work, getting our temperature checked when we enter the few hospital entrances. We are scared for a surge of patients and are preparing for that.
How do you handle the emotional stress of the COVID-19 situation?
I am handling the emotional stress load by praying more, leaning on God’s mercy, his healing powers and strength. I meet with my church family once a week via Zoom to share our praises, prayer requests and updates. I attend our worship via Zoom on Sundays. I’m trying to be more supportive with my work family, and my immediate family and friends in connecting with them online.
How has your faith helped you and impacted how you’ve served in the crisis?
My faith has always helped in simply knowing that I’m not in control and, above all, understanding that I must trust in him. This is also a great time to share my faith.
Can you share a story of kindness or selflessness you’ve witnessed in recent days?
My ICU work family is a big source of support during this time, as we work together and try to get through this pandemic. Our San Francisco community has reached out to show support, giving nurses food, comforting lotions and oils. I also see signs in my neighborhood offering seniors help with their grocery runs and senior hours in grocery stores, which is encouraging and helpful.
Most encouraging is seeing people on the road to recovery. I have taken care of patients who are diagnosed COVID-19 positive and are intubated. After days of fighting and different medicines, I’ve tested them on the ventilator to see if they can breathe on their own with different vent settings and eventually seen their breathing tube taken out. Seeing people on that road to recovery gives us hope.
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- Download our latest Scripture series, God With Us, written from quarantine.