Life on the Front Line

Nursing alumni and students step up during pandemic

By Arvin Temkar, USF News Posted Mon, 04/27/2020 - 10:56

True to their Jesuit education, nurses, hospital leaders, and students from the USF School of Nursing and Health Professions are rising to meet the COVID-19 challenge.

At Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, CEO Jian Zhang DNP ’12 and her team have held off the disease and have treated a handful of patients who are recovering and being discharged.

At UC Davis Medical Center, Carla Martin MSN ’14 has led the incident command center since early in the pandemic, when the first U.S. case of COVID-19 was transferred to the university hospital. As executive director of patient care services, she oversees the safety of patients and health care workers.

"Our students and graduates are being people for others," said School of Nursing and Health Professions Dean Maggie Baker. "They're using their hearts, minds, and souls to change the world from wherever they are."

The Call to Serve

Nicole Taniguchi ’16 and Liz Philips ’12 volunteered to work at St. Francis Memorial Hospital’s coronavirus unit, the first in San Francisco. It's a high-risk environment: signs warn employees that they must not eat or drink in the unit or enter without wearing protective gear.

Taniguchi, a staff nurse, cares for patients, while Philips, an RN case manager, coordinates their discharge and aftercare.

Philips remembers being inspired by a USF professor who told students about her time working during the AIDS crisis in the city.

“I always knew if there was an emergency, I wanted to step up and make sure I was doing everything I could to make a difference,” said Philips. “When this opportunity came about, I didn't want to just sit by and say, well, I'll let somebody else do it.”

Visitors aren’t allowed in the unit except on a case-by-case basis, so bedside nurses like Taniguchi are a big part of their patients’ lives.

“Caring for the whole person — or cura personalis — is a USF value that strongly influences my nursing practice,” said Taniguchi, whose manager Sara Lentz MSN ’13, DNP ’19 is also a USF alumna. “Because these patients are isolated, it means taking the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of each patient into account.”

FaceTime of a Lifetime

For Shelby Delaney ’15, wearing one of her Steph Curry Warriors jerseys under her scrubs gives her an “invisible shield” that helps her keep going.

Delaney, who works at an ICU in Oakland, posted a photo of herself wearing the jersey on Facebook, including a message asking friends to donate disinfecting wipes and masks. The post got the attention of Curry, who FaceTimed Delaney before her shift one day.

“I can’t thank God enough for what you’re doing and just the sacrifice, the selflessness, and the way everybody’s coming together,” Curry told Delaney in a now-viral video.

After the call, Delaney’s hospital received daily donations of meals, as well as about 1,200 N95 and surgical masks.

Student, Employee, Volunteer

Alhaji Kabba ’20 is juggling three roles these days. He's wrapping up his BSN degree, works in a clinical rotation at UC San Francisco as a patient care assistant in orthopedics, and volunteers at UCSF’s ICU with COVID-19 patients.

He said the clinical rotation he landed through USF gave him a jump on his career — and led him to volunteer to work with coronavirus patients. “We’re in a position where we get to learn more and practice a lot of things we learn in school,” he said.

After Kabba graduates this fall he plans on applying for nursing jobs and hopes to go to graduate school for nursing or public health.