“No one knew what to expect, it was scary not having any answers for our patients.” Marissa Marcantonio, a 24 year old nurse at St. Barnabas in Livingston, NJ, explains what her experience is like fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. Marissa became a nurse on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in January of 2020. Starting her second year as a nurse, Marissa never expected she would be experiencing a global pandemic first hand. Despite all of the unknown aspects of this pandemic, Marissa proved her resilience every step of the way. She displays her ability to adapt by being able to adjust to an entirely new protocols each day as more information is gathered. Marissa explains, the challenges of learning more about this virus, “Even though we have a little more of an action plan, we still did not know if what we were providing to our patients was going to work. Everything feels like trial and error.”
With the overwhelming influx of COVID-19 patients amidst a second wave Marissa found majority of her support from her co-workers. “No one knows what it is like. Unless you see it, you can’t even begin to imagine the devastation,” Marissa states referring to her experience working in the ICU during COVID. Due to the indescribable experience from serving on the frontlines, Marissa relied heavily on the support of her co-workers. “Being surrounded by a supportive team is so important. I know that when I go into work I can rely on my co-workers to pick me up and help in anyway,” she expresses. Marissa states that because she knows her co-workers are there for her when she needs it, she always tries to provide extra support when she is able to. This cycle of support helps Marissa and her team feel less alone during the more difficult times in the ICU.
Marissa also acknowledges the support from her family, friends, and community have allowed her not to just cope, but continue the fight against COVID-19. Local restaurants, families of patients, and other community organizations have made multiple donations to St. Barnabas throughout the pandemic. “Knowing that I had food waiting for me was just one less thing I had to worry about going into my shift,” Marissa states. The donations allowed Marissa to focus more of her time and energy on the care of her patients knowing that she could rely on the support of her community to help fulfill some of her basic needs.
Marissa has spent her time during the pandemic working long night shifts supporting and caring for those effects by COVID-19. Her hard work and dedication are continued to be appreciated by many. In April of 2021, Marissa will be receiving an award from the Columbian Foundations for her efforts throughout the pandemic. The Columbian Foundation is an Italian American non-profit organization who have been supporting healthcare workers and the community through scholarship and awards for the past 75 years. Marissa states, “It feels good to be recognized and to know that what I am doing is not going unnoticed.”
As Marissa continues to fight on the frontlines, she continues to prove her resiliency. Marissa is able to recognize the negative effects of being on the frontlines and continues to stress the importance of being connected with those around her. Marissa states, “If there is one thing I could tell other nurses it is to continue to support each other.” Just like how Marissa is being supported each day by her co-workers, we are here to support you. As we move forward and build our resiliency as a community through this unprecedented time, please know that you are not alone. Our HEAL: NJ Healthcare Worker COVID Hope and Healing Helpline is available 7 days a week 8am-8pm. We are here for you.
*If you know of a NJ Healthcare Worker who can be celebrated during these trying times, please fill out a request form or email firstname.lastname@example.org their contact information including their name, email, and a little more about them along with a picture in PPE*