When Codie Moszczynski, SRNA, front-line hero, contacted TANA to share her story, she was completing her third experience as a traveling ICU nurse on the front lines of the pandemic. At the time, January 4, 2021, Codie was in San Antonio, TX, following stints in Brooklyn, NY, and El Paso, TX, two of the nation’s epicenters when she was working there. This is her story as she submitted it and shared details in a follow-up phone interview.
“Beginning April this year, prior to starting CRNA school in August, I chose to travel to NYC to the epicenter of the pandemic in hopes of putting forth my best efforts to help and alleviating the strain on my fellow ICU nurses. I was in NYC for a total of 74 days, returning home in early July; now, during my Christmas break from CRNA school, I have found myself in San Antonio with a few classmates from my cohort. We have worked weeks in a row (yes, you read that right, weeks!) with very little in the way of resources, PPE, and sometimes hope to see this through. I work the night shift—7p to 7a—caring for a lot of COVID patients in a busy hospital with no available beds. Although my classmates and I should be taking a break and spending time with our families, it’s not that simple. We have the critical tools, experience, and knowledge to make a difference and that is the most important task right now.
Found My Calling
“A native of Florida, I attended the Florida Southwestern State College nursing program; my professional background is as a trauma ICU nurse. How did I gravitate toward nurse anesthesia? That’s easy: I found my calling. I’ll be starting my second semester as a first-year SRNA in February 2021. By the time I’m done with school, there will be such a need for nurse anesthetists. CRNAs will be leaving the workforce following the pandemic—so many are simply spent.”
Headlong into the Hot Zone
“The decision to travel wasn’t very difficult: I felt bad for my ICU nursing colleagues—they were hit hard by this pandemic. I was compelled to help them, so I did. I was fortunate to be able to travel with two of my SRNA colleagues from Union—first-year SRNAs like myself. It was good to be able to share such challenging experiences with colleagues who have similar interests and were at a similar point in their careers and nurse anesthesia preparation.”
“It’s hard to describe what it was like in Brooklyn. For anyone who questions, those ice trucks with the bodies in them were real. I was in Brooklyn—the epicenter—on a FEMA contract until July 3. I worked the night shift (7p-7a) as part of the first wave of 500 nurses to arrive in NYC, and it still wasn’t enough to cover the crisis.
“On July 4, just after I got home, I received a text asking if I’d travel to San Antonio to help out. ICU nurses there were dealing with 4-5 patients instead of two. Northing was normal. I hesitated, needing the break, but said, ‘OK, fine.’ I couldn’t say no—they needed the help badly.
“I started my anesthesia program when I got back from Texas, completing my first semester by mid-December. Sadly, my Dad passed away on December 9. He had caught COVID last June—he already had some health issues, and the virus tipped him over the edge. I was with him when he passed. It was a rough year start to finish.
“Shortly after the semester ended, I got sent to El Paso. In a sense it was good for me—it took my mind off my Dad as much as anything could. But I was amazed how bad it was in El Paso—very bad, worse than NYC at the height of the first wave. It was shocking to see people dying…just…all the time. A lot of our patients were Hispanic, and young—in their 30s and 40s. I think some of the reasons they were so vulnerable to the virus was poverty, diet, comorbidities, tight quarters—big families in small spaces. It only takes one person to catch COVID and bring it home and infect everyone you live with. In El Paso I felt like I was chasing my tail all the time—everyone was really sick. I finished out my trip working in San Antonio before returning to Tennessee.
“I believe every program should be sending students to help out and experience caregiving in the heart of the pandemic. It taught me flexibility—how to go with the flow yet be more keen about certain things. A had a lot of great experiences, and a lot of really bad ones!”
Coping with the Stress of the Front Line
“I find healthy ways to deal with the stress of what we are dealing with on a daily basis. I journal a lot. I try to eat right and take my vitamins, go to the gym. I get my nails done.
“I got my vaccine, which gives us healthcare workers a glimmer of hope—oh gosh, this might really end! I also talk about it a lot – that’s how I cope. My husband, my friends—I’m fortunate to have them. You find yourself going through the motions and replaying everything in your head all the time. There are positive outcomes, but so many bad ones. Facetiming with family members of critically ill COVID patients is really bad. I hold the phone up and turn away.”
Message for the Public
“People need to help each other. There was so much tension last year. We need to come together ultimately and be there for one another—take better care of one another. It’s about more than family—it’s about community. Wear your mask, get vaccinated. It’s not just about ourselves!”