Mary McIntyre was new to nursing and started working just a few short months prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the critical care intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital is comfortable admitting that she felt “completely and utterly unprepared” as COVID-19 patients began to fill her unit.
Luckily, Mary had enough support around her to be able to adapt and grow into the nurse that she is now — one who is used to the chaos of working in a COVID-19 ICU. Mary describes her fellow nurses who trained her as “incredible … and I give them a lot of credit for carrying me through the beginning of the pandemic.”
More than a year and a half into the pandemic, Mary reflects on her experience and what it has been like being called upon to serve on the frontlines.
“My reaction included a roller coaster of emotions, but I always landed on the same mental space of feeling certain of my purpose,” she recalls. “Nursing is a challenging and rewarding career that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If you are considering working for Bon Secours, I strongly recommend you give it a shot and find out for yourself how special being a Bon Secours nurse can be.”
Initially, it was hard for Mary to believe the pandemic was unfolding. However, as things became more real, Mary became more and more prepared to do what was being asked of her.
Mary remembers her first time caring for a COVID-19 patient. She shares that she put on her PPE and entered the room feeling nervous and scared. Her patient was on the verge of needing intubation and he was scared, too.
“My eyes fogged up my face shield and I felt like I might suffocate in my N-95, but when I held his hand, I told him that we would do the best we could … I realized that my job is the same no matter the conditions, with or without a pandemic,” she shares. “My job is to be there for the sick and vulnerable. It’s my responsibility no matter what the circumstances in the world are. The gentleman from this story survived COVID-19 and is back to living a full and healthy life now – one of our best COVID success stories!”
What Mary enjoys most about her job are the little moments that she gets to share with her patients.
“They’re small moments that happen on a day-to-day basis, but they feel big to me – and maybe also to my patients.”
Mary gave a few examples of her most favorite moments:
- Getting to hear someone’s voice after they’ve been taken off a ventilator.
- Washing and combing a patient’s hair and seeing how much better it makes them feel.
- Seeing a family member reunite with the patient after they finally test negative for COVID-19.
- Walking a patient around the unit who’s able to get out of bed for the first time in days.
- Playing a patients’ favorite music for them in their room.
- Sharing funny stories about life and hearing about a patient’s family.
- Holding a patient’s hand when they are scared so they know they aren’t alone.
Mary shares the highs as well as the lows with her coworkers and knows that she’s never alone in what she is going through.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates for the hard work that they put into every shift to help our patients and to help each other,” Mary says. “In the last two years, I have seen everyone grow together and become more resilient each day.”
Mary has also seen the faith-based aspect of our ministry lived out time and time again.
“We take care of many people who don’t have access to health insurance and have long, expensive hospital stays,” she reveals. “I’ve seen our teams help homeless patients find places to live, help support immigrants and refugees, stand up for the rights of minorities and the LGBTQ population, and so much more. The Bon Secours ministry honors the religious preferences of patients and offers spiritual services tailored to the needs of the individual, especially in end-of-life situations.”
Since her experience on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary has developed a much deeper appreciation for life and for connections with her own friends and family. She has become acutely aware of the short time we have in this world.
“Being a nurse during a pandemic has been nothing short of challenging, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
We’re so grateful to Mary and our other nurses who have been dedicated to caring for COVID-19 patients at Bon Secours, where nurses mean the world!
Also, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is the best way you can avoid severe illness and protect those around you. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from some of our health care providers.