DNP Student Describes Conditions at NYC Hospital

DNP Student Describes Conditions at NYC Hospital

For Doctor of Nursing Practice student Elena Johns, education in the classroom was not enough. She is a hands-on student, so it was no surprise to her professors when Johns, who is also a hospice nurse in San Diego, volunteered to go to New York City to help during the coronavirus pandemic. She arrived in New York on April 6 and has been working at an unnamed Brooklyn hospital since.

“So, it’s pretty difficult,” Johns said from her room at a nearby Airbnb. “Not gonna lie. It’s hard.” 

Johns is in her first year of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of San Diego's Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. Her focus is in the area of palliative care. Her interest in providing compassionate care at end-of-life is what prompted her to go to New York. She wanted to be sure patients did not die alone.

“This one patient was on a regular floor and was being brought up ICU for the purpose of being intubated with a breathing tube because his breathing was so poor. But he had been vocalizing, very vocal, that he did not want the breathing tube,” she said.

Johns said the attending physician explained to the patient that he would not survive without intubation. The patient understood but insisted that he not be put on a ventilator. Johns said the doctor actually listened to the patient and did not intubate him. Johns then asked the doctor to prescribe what is called “comfort” medication; that is, medication to help alleviate pain for patients who are about to pass. The doctor was hesitant, so he called the patient’s daughter. Johns said the conversation was a long one.

“Meanwhile, the patient is alone in his room passing. I didn't get the [medication] in time and I was pretty upset about that,” she said. “I went into the room to be with the patient and held his hand. There were two other nurses, so he didn't die alone, but there was no family and unfortunately, he was not as comfortable as he could have been.”

Johns will return to San Diego on May 5 a different person because of her experiences working in the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter. A more passionate person, she said, about caring for those at the end of their lives.

Next week, in honor of Nurse’s Week, we will have stories on our web page and social media platforms from alumni and students like Elena Johns. Elena, herself, will talk more about her experiences in New York.

begin quoteThe hardest part is taking care of patients that have been in the ICU for over two weeks and they're not getting better.
Elena in New York

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