#WEaretheFrontLines: USC Nursing Stories From Around the World

Nurses have always been essential in the lives of their patients — a reality the global coronavirus pandemic has thrown into even sharper focus.

May 6–12 is National Nurses Week, and as COVID-19 cases increase and hospitals treat more patients, nurses should be celebrated now more than ever. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work salutes all the health care workers serving on the front lines — especially its nurses.

“Even as challenges continue, the spirit, creativity and generosity of Trojans everywhere are a force for good,” wrote USC President Carol Folt in a letter to the community.

It’s National Nurses Week May 6–12! Michelle Zappas, family nurse practitioner and clinical associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, celebrates the work of nurses and nurse practitioners.

USC students, faculty and alumni are delivering care in an unprecedented situation.

While studying part time, Christian Marano, RN, also serves on a clinical advisory team managing five mental health facilities across California. When the pandemic hit, a strike team was put together, and Marano was asked to join.

Given his understanding of the stressors facing nurses on the floor, his firsthand experience providing care in high-conflict scenarios and his early clinical rotations with Nursing@USC, Marano has become an asset to the team.

On his days off, Marano is testing essential personnel for coronavirus and stands ready to serve at a COVID-19 alternate care site if local hospitals become overwhelmed by patients.

“At the end of all this and many years from now, I would like to be able to answer the question, ‘What did you do during the pandemic that helped?’”

Nursing@USC student Christina Dejesus, RN, also began screening essential personnel for the coronavirus, providing care for their families and helping manage their anxiety and any other mental health concerns that arise.

Working in the clinic has offered an opportunity to reeducate patients about COVID-19 and how primary care can prevent costly emergency care down the line.

While providing care during the pandemic can be stressful, Dejesus is making time to connect with friends and rest, even in her home in downtown Los Angeles. And every night from 8 to 8:02 p.m., her neighbors celebrate their first responders by clapping, honking their horns, flashing their lights, and cheering.

“I go on my balcony at night and kind of take that in, which is really cool,” Dejesus said.

USC students, faculty and alumni all over the world are contributing to their communities and standing the vanguard of the pandemic. Find out more by searching #WEaretheFrontLines and reading the resources below.

USC in the Media: Nurses on the Pandemic Front Lines

Send More Masks
This feature article explores the experience of Jennifer Dixon, RN, a nurse with 20 years of experience and a current student in the Nursing@USC online MSN program, receiving her first COVID-19 patient — who is also a friend. Dixon grapples with the health care community’s changing understanding of the novel coronavirus and the shortage of personal protective equipment.

Caring for Our Most Fragile Members of Society
Anthony Lista, RN, serves as director of population health for a large nursing home operator while also completing his MSN degree with Nursing@USC. When the pandemic began, Lista was tapped for his employer’s infection prevention team to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in a network of long-term care facilities across the nation. In this feature article, Lista describes his new reality working closely with nursing home administrators and care providers, homing in on their concerns and finding solutions tailored to their specific needs.

Doctors [and Nurses] Make More Video House Calls Than Ever to Lower the Coronavirus’s Burden
For routine care, nurse practitioners and other health professionals have shifted to telehealth rapidly and effectively. “We went from something like 15 visits a week to almost 1,000 visits a week in a matter of a couple of weeks,” said Dilip Parekh, professor of clinical surgery and chief clinical officer for digital health and Keck Medicine’s provider network. “It’s really a testament to teamwork.” This news story explores how the process works for patients and providers.

Don’t Stop Fighting: We’re All in This Together
Sabrina Bates, RN, a student in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, shares her experience as a nurse at Keck Hospital of USC. While working in the hospital’s transport center for receiving COVID-19 patients, Bates had to admit a close friend into the ICU — and then continue providing lifesaving care. She relays the story along with glimmers of hope in this feature article. “When our patients leave our ward, we clap,” she said. “We cheer for them! We’re excited because they beat it.”

Managing a Disaster, Preparing for a Surge
USC nursing alumna Kellyn Pak is the nurse manager of the Disaster Resource Center at LAC+USC Medical Center, the University’s teaching hospital. As the Center receives and distributes personal protective equipment to the region, Pak is the one coordinating the logistics. “There’s such a need for nurses in this type of role,” she said. This feature article explores her role and its effect on the health care community.

May’s Anatomy
May Fakhriyazdi, an RN and student in the family nurse practitioner program, hosts May’s Anatomy, a podcast for current and prospective nurses. When she asked her audience on Instagram about their interest in a miniseries on coronavirus updates, the response was enthusiastic. “I’ve never gotten so much response, actually, to one of my posts,” she said in the first episode, released March 16. Fakhriyazdi releases one weekly episode recapping the previous week’s coronavirus updates and offering guidance on moving forward for providers and the public alike.

Meet the Dedicated Crew That Keeps Our Keck Medicine Professionals Safe
After a worker at Keck Hospital of USC tested positive for the coronavirus, the hospital set its emergency plans into motion. Nurses staffed screening tents in the parking lot to test employees before they entered the hospital, while others managed an employee health hotline. Jon Morales, one of the hospital’s floating RNs, describes balancing the health risk with his desire to serve in this news story. “People need to be out on the front lines, helping patients,” he said. “We’re nurses. This is what we signed up for.”

Surgeons-in-Training Learn Important Skills to Back Up Key Allies During the Coronavirus Pandemic — Nurses
To prepare for the potential surge of patients with the coronavirus, nurses led a training on ICU nursing skills for surgical residents at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Training included putting in intravenous lines, performing blood draws and handling ICU machinery, according to this news story. “This is a great example of the two disciplines taking their collaboration to a higher level,” said Nofal Kahwaji, one of the workshop instructors. “These surgical residents are taking a broader approach and stepping up to support the nursing staff if the demand requires it.”

How Is the USC Community Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

COVID-19 Heroes
Trojans around the world are supporting their communities in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. USC curates a visual newsfeed of recent headlines related to the university community, students, faculty, staff and alumni.

COVID-19 Resource Center
The COVID-19 Resource Center is an information hub for USC students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community to find campus updates, frequently asked questions and coronavirus guidance. Those interested in making a donation or requesting assistance from one of the University’s support funds can find this information here.

Expert Faculty Tips and Guidance
Faculty members throughout the university are sharing their expertise and offering coronavirus guidance in the media. In the video “Self-Care for COVID-19 Health Care Workers,” Michelle Zappas, clinical associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing, guides providers through a short but effective self-care exercise. Other topics covered by USC faculty include coping with the coronavirus pandemic, teaching children at home and finding resources as a person living in the country without legal permission.

Keck Medicine of USC and USC Launch Program to Assist Staff During COVID-19 Pandemic
“Our health care workers are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their personal safety, and that of their loved ones, is our number-one priority,” said Tammy Capretta, RN, MPH, chief transformation and risk officer for Keck Medicine of USC. To that end, Keck Medicine and USC provides free housing, amenities and mental health support for staff employed by the hospital system.

Citation for this content: Nursing@USC, the online FNP program from the University of Southern California