Former Southeast Health nurse describes life after moving to NYC and becoming a COVID-19 bedside nurse


DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Imagine living in the Wiregrass all your life and then moving your family of four to New York City.

Then imagine accepting a nursing position at a hospital in one of the country’s largest COVID-19 hotspots.

That’s the story of Rachael Rowe, a former Southeast Health nurse now turned COVID-19 ICU bedside nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York.

“I thought we’d make it through this virus and it would already be on the mend when I moved my family to New York,” Rowe told WDHN. “It wasn’t.”

By the time Rachael’s family moved, New York was shut down. Businesses were closed and residents were required to stay at home as much as possible. Three months after arriving in NYC, Rachael learned where she would be working.

“They placed me at Elmhurst which was just crazy because I had read about Elmhurst all through the pandemic,” Rowe said. “They were the ones so severely hit that they had the morgue trucks out front.”

Rachael says working in a COVID-19 hotspot has allowed her to see healthcare workers set aside differences in order to save lives.

“You have never seen people come together of all different races and economic statuses and all they’re trying to do, literally, all around one person, trying to save their life,” Rowe said. “Doing CPR during a code or something like that. It’s just a beautiful image.”

But Rachael says she has seen other healthcare professionals adopt a different view of the pandemic. One that she says includes complaining, fear-provoking posts and unprofessional behavior.

“It has been people complaining that everybody else is staying at home and safe with their children and I’ve got to be at work at seven or I didn’t sign up for this,” Rowe explained. “I don’t have enough PPE and I don’t have the things to do my job correctly.”

Rachael says she has looked at the situation differently.

“How amazing that you will be the only people that have had to make PPE and wear it,” Rowe said. “It’s very triage-like or military where they went to places unknown. We don’t what we’re doing half the time but we’re all in it together.”

Rachael says the video was never meant as an “atta girl” toward her. Nor was it meant to make people angry. Instead, it was to inspire healthcare workers.

“This is my call to the rest of my medical professionals to stop those posts of fear and the posts of defeat,” Rowe said. “I know you’re tired but you are 100% awesome and you are made for such a time as this. Step up, answer the call.”

To see Rachael’s original Facebook video, click here.

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