N95 mask, stethoscope and blue latex gloves

Travel Nurse Runs to the COVID-19 Fire

‘I’m here to serve.’

Scott Labadie, RN, has run into burning buildings.

He’s jumped out of airplanes.

He’s worked in operating rooms during open-heart surgeries. 

Of course, he was willing to leave his job and home in Florida to go work in New York City in April, when the coronavirus pandemic was raging.

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An Invitation He Couldn’t Refuse

In March, Scott received a call from Sally Small, his travel nurse recruiter at NurseChoice. She asked if he’d be willing to take on a 4-week assignment at New York–Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. They needed additional nurses to take care of the surging numbers of patients with COVID-19.

Having worked with Scott for three years, Sally knew that this type of travel nursing assignment would resonate with him. And she was right.

“It was an immediate ‘Yes’,” says Scott.

His wife, Zully, agreed with him. The couple are active in their church, and they regularly take mission trips where they can put their nursing skills to work. At the time of the call, both husband and wife were working at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida, but the hospital really needed Zully to stay in her job as an ICU nurse in the COVID-19 unit.

So, Scott made plans to journey to New York alone. He has a background as a paramedic and firefighter, so he felt prepared for the pressure of a very intense environment.

He arrived in early April, and, after a quick orientation, went right to work. Like many other medical centers in New York City at the time, the hospital’s staff was depleted by COVID-19. So the nurses and other staff welcomed him with open arms.

“All the staff was so friendly to me and so welcoming. They were so happy to see me,” he says. “I felt loved and like I was part of the family.”

Making A Difference In The Most Difficult Circumstances

Scott’s patients were sick, very sick, and many were dying. Because of the severity of pandemic and the social distancing guidelines, they were also alone. So he made it a point to reach out to them and to their anxious loved ones.

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He arranged video chats with his patients’ family members. He gave them his cell phone number so they could call or text him. He prayed over his patients, and over the phone with their family members.

A 14-minute walk from his apartment to the hospital meant that he could check in on his patients anytime.

“Even on my days off, I would go up there to them,” he says. “I would go up to their rooms and let their family members video chat with them.”

Scott’s church back home sent donations, including face masks and other goodies that he could share with others. He passed them out to nurses and other staffers. And when his patients were fortunate to be discharged from the hospital, he kept in touch so he could find out how they were doing.

As the numbers of COVID-19 patients began to drop, Scott stayed busy. A New York City hospital always has patients coming in and needing help from a veteran nurse like him.

Scott’s travel nursing assignment in New York City will wrap up on July 4, and he’ll be headed home to Palm Beach. He’s glad that he has had this opportunity.

“I’m here to help and to have a willing heart and a willing mind, to just be able to do anything they ask of me that they need help for,” he explains. “That’s what a true servant is. I’m here to serve, not to be served.”

Considering The Travel Nursing Lifestyle For Yourself?

“Travel nursing is a good way to learn something about yourself,” says Scott, adding that it is also worth walking through any nervousness that you may have because fear can hold you back. He suggests having an open mind and not putting expectations on yourself or the experience in advance.

His last word of advice? “A good recruiter, like Sallie Small, is a necessary resource.”

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