My Nursing Practice During COVID-19: A Nursing Ph.D. Student Reflects on his Experience

April 15, 2020

Janusz A. Kaleta is spending his days working with clients in the community who have the coronavirus.

Ph.D. student Janusz A. Kaleta (Photo courtesy of Kaleta)
Ph.D. student Janusz A. Kaleta (Photo courtesy of Kaleta)

Janusz A. Kaleta, a doctoral student in nursing at The Graduate Center and the president and founder of Manhattan Nursing Services, is spending his days working with clients in the community who have the coronavirus. 
Kaleta recently took time out from his busy day to share his reflections on working as a nurse during this time of public crisis:
I have been working as a registered professional nurse (RN) for a number of years in New York. As nurses, we are trained to work under high pressure, and we are trained to fight with invisible infectious diseases that can kill. However, nothing has prepared us for what we are dealing with right now. COVID-19 has taken our experience as nurses to new levels of physical, emotional, and psychological dimensions. We have never had situations before where a patient’s closest family members would not be allowed to visit. The trauma of separation and the fear of the unknown outcomes are palpable everywhere.
Every day when I wake up, I take a deep breath. When I feel the air effortlessly circulating in and out of my lungs, I feel incredibly thankful! I breathe. I feel my lungs in the thoracic cage expanding and deflating with ease. Next, I swallow saliva to feel if my throat doesn’t feel sore. I take my temperature to make sure that it is within normal limits. Those are the first steps to take to make sure that I, myself, am not a risk to others and will not expose my clients to this virus.
Stepping out on the empty streets, everything looks surreal, like a science fiction movie is unspooling in front of my eyes. Hearing someone coughing on the bus in Queens makes me shiver. Almost everyone wears a mask. I see people wearing gloves but touching common surfaces in the bus, and touching their phones and scratching their face – cross-contamination in real-time. 
Most recently, I have been working with a client on a mechanical ventilator, and the recent crisis has made me reflect much more closely on the simplest and yet most important things in our lives, such as breathing. I spend all day, day after day, with this person struggling to breathe. All you hear is the beeping sounds of the ventilator when artificially propelled oxygen encounters a barrier on its way to the lungs.
Prior to the outbreak, this person’s family would visit every single day. His wife would stay there, with her husband on the ventilator for several hours. Other family members would travel from far away to visit. This all changed when the facility was placed on lockdown.
To combat the fear that surrounds us all at this time, I take time to meditate every late evening at home. I close my eyes and listen to my own breathing. I turn off all news and social media. Through those moments of meditation, I try to quiet down. Just sit, quietly breathing in and out.
Please remember those most vulnerable in our communities. Please call 311 to contact the Department of Homeless Services to alert them about an individual who is homeless and in need of services. We are all in this together.
This personal reflection is dedicated to all essential workers during this crisis.