Rose Santa-Teresa RN, BSN, CCRN, is a Clinical Nurse IV at a cancer center in NYC and has over 30 years of critical care experience. A Clinical Nurse IV is the highest clinical level a nurse can attain as a bedside clinician. Santa Teresa has been re-deployed to a newly converted COVID-19 ICU unit. For the past two years, Santa-Teresa has been a nurse liaison for the perioperative service.  In this role Santa-Teresa provides emotional support for caregivers of patients while undergoing surgical procedures and assists surgeons with delivery of diagnosis and support families during intraoperative and post-operative discussions.

“My expertise in critical care medicine has given me the ability to transition back to bedside care and mentor staff who are building their critical care knowledge”, said Santa-Teresa. “The biggest challenge as a re-deployed nurse has been learning all the changes within critical care practice in the last two years, the daily changes that occur with care of the COVID-19 patient, and then implementing practice changes while teaching foundations to nurses caring for the sickest patients in the institution” said Santa-Teresa. 

Santa-Teresa is also helping these newly trained nurses deal with the overwhelming demands of caring for dying patients. “I let each nurse process these experiences in their own way and share how I honor patients while caring for them during the end of life and providing postmortem care.  “Nurses are the only employee who has consistent exposure to the patient. When a patient is dying, taking their last breath, a nurse is there to provide comfort, to provide a human touch… and that is what anyone wants…especially a COVID-19 patient who is not allowed any visitors”, said Santa-Teresa. 

Santa-Teresa expressed concern about a fast track approach through nursing education with minimal nursing experience and feels that this will not be helpful to meet the growing demands for highly skilled nurses in specialties like critical care and emergency medicine areas. “The best leader is one that can take care of the sickest patient in their area of practice. A leader should never lose their bedside skills.  Experienced nurses have the best opportunity to elevate the nursing profession and promote nurse leadership by becoming mentors for new nurses. In a mentor role, nurse leaders can teach to identify and apply evidence-based improvements to care”, said Santa-Teresa.