Erie nurse working in New York urges four-staters to follow social distancing guidelines

ERIE, Kan. – Erie, Kansas resident and travel nurse Tracy Surber has been working in Brooklyn, New York at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital for the past week.

And so far, she says it’s been a completely unique experience.

“I’ve been a nurse a long time so when I walk into a hospital it’s work. And it’s funny ’cause I’ll sit down and think about that for a second… wait a minute, this is different. I’m in New York,” says Surber. “There are no surgeries. There are no procedures. There’s nothing… unless it’s something that has to do with COVID. As far as nursing goes, you’re taking care of patients that have COVID. There’s a lot of stuff, as nurses, that we’re supposed to chart. Well, we’re not doing any of that. The only things we have to chart on now are vital signs, medications and safety. It’s really a different kind of nursing.”

Surber also says all of the admitted patience have COVID-19, and from what she can tell, most beds are full.

So health care workers have their hands full.

“It’s hard sometimes ’cause you can freak out and be calling a doctor, and, I mean, in normal times you’ll get a response and get something done. But right now… and I’m not saying that’s not happening, but they’re overwhelmed,” says Surber. “I mean, it’s just overwhelming, all the patients that are there. There are usually nurse-patient ratios of four patients to a nurse, with a nurse tech. But, Sunday I had seven. With a tech. But seven patients, even with a tech, is a lot.”

Surber says nurses are required to wear extra protective equipment — wearing an N95 mask with a surgical mask and then a face shield on top of both of those — and spend only a few minutes at a time in each patient room to limit exposure.

“Every time I go into a room, I’m very aware of it. I try to be very careful. And it did take me probably a good day and a half to kind of get over that… I don’t want to say it was fear but just being able to go in and actually be a nurse and not look freaked out,” says Surber. “But then the next minute I’m like, well,  I’ve been doing this (nursing) for long enough now if I was gonna get something I would have. I don’t know, we have different ways of handling stress, and I have to do some kind of reassurance for myself so I can do what I need to do.”

Surber says being in New York has painted a picture of just how bad the COVID-19 pandemic can get.

So she’s encouraging everyone back home to take the virus seriously.

“I know for a fact that we’re not prepared for what they’ve got going on up here. And if me being up here and being able to relay that message back home, ‘Hey, let’s listen to what they say as far as social distancing…’ because if we have a pandemic in southeast Kansas like they do in New York City, it ain’tgonna be good,” says Surber. 

Surber is in for a two-month stay in New York.