Mountain Movers – Cassidy Allen

MHU nursing alumna Cassidy Allen poses in her medical PPE - personal protective equipmentTo say that we are living in unprecedented times is an understatement. As of August 2020 the CDC and WHO reports say that there have been over 18 million confirmed cases and over 600,000 deaths due to COVID-19 across the globe. Before COVID the most recent pandemic of this proportion was the 1918 flu pandemic that killed over over 50 million worldwide between 1918 and 1919. To put this into perspective, World War 1 ended in 1918 and as of 1918 Ford was still producing the Model T car. Needless to say, society was not prepared for battling a pandemic of this proportion. Most today would argue that their way of living has been drastically changed in only a few short months.

I am one of the people that can say my life has drastically changed form since March. In March I was in my last semester as a nursing student and was also finishing up my collegiate softball career. In early March I was told that due to concerns over COVID-19 my senior season of softball would be suddenly cut short. Some short weeks later I was told that my senior nursing practicum in trauma care was being canceled and students would no longer be allowed in the hospital. Within a few more weeks I was told that I would not be receiving a pinning ceremony (a long-honored tradition celebrating becoming a new nurse) and I would also not be walking the stage at a graduation ceremony. Since April I have been working full-time in healthcare and in July I began working in the COVID isolated unit in my workplace. In July I also tested positive for COVID-19. It was not surprising, considering my exposure to it, but a frightening experience nonetheless. I actually got a first-hand look at some of the loneliness my patients feel every day when they are not able to be with any of their family members. This experience, at times, has been not only heartbreaking but extremely challenging to come to grips with all the changes.

Since graduating the word “change” has become the mantra for my life. Becoming a new nurse presents its own set of challenges, but becoming a new nurse during a pandemic is what some would call, “baptism by fire.” The days are long, personal protective equipment is in extremely short supply, patients are inconsolable and lonely without family by the bedside, and protocol and information for COVID-19 is ever-changing. As a new nurse you always have the feeling you don’t know enough, but it is much worse when the information is constantly evolving such as with the COVID-19 virus. But it is through this pandemic that I have learned so much from those around me. Each day I see people who show up and get to work regardless of the risks associated with it. Nurses are not the only ones doing it, either. I have seen environmental service workers in full PPE, cleaning and disinfecting rooms so those rooms can be opened back up and used again; I have seen dining service workers show up everyday to feed patients regardless of the risks associated with our workplace; and I have seen maintenance workers wearing N-95 masks and face shields so they can come in and make sure equipment is in working order. I am sure none of these people ever thought that they would live or work through a time like this; even so, they have committed themselves to contributing in any way they can. Families truly do not understand that nurses and doctors are the tip of the iceberg and so much work goes unnoticed below the surface. You thank me because I am the face you see all the time, but I would not be able to do my job without the help of so many other people.

It was my experience as a Mars Hill student and athlete that I feel prepared me for a time like this. We may be a small campus but we have no shortage of teamwork and support from one another. We have professors that teach not through lecture but through group projects and discussions because these projects and discussions teach more than just the material—they teach that collaboration will get you much farther in life than working alone. We have coaches that believe goals can only be accomplished by several individuals united by one vision. These coaches instill in their players that lessons learned in teamwork and communication go far beyond the field of play.

It is clear COVID-19 has brought a new way of life. While we do not yet know when our lives will resume “normal” it is evident that we do have something to be thankful for. We can be thankful for the people out on the front lines everyday risking it all to help others. From the cashier at the grocery store, to the environmental service worker cleaning rooms in a hospital, to the nurse taking care of a loved one, everyone is risking something for the greater good. If there is one thing to take away from COVID-19 it is that teamwork and coming together for the greater good is never a waste of anyone’s time.