Nurse of the Week Sandy Nichols: COVID Frontlines “Made Me a Better Person and a Better Nurse”

Nurse of the Week Sandy Nichols: COVID Frontlines “Made Me a Better Person and a Better Nurse”

This is Nephrology Nurses Week, and our latest Nurse of the Week is RN Sandy Nichols, who treats acute dialysis patients in hospitals in Albuquerque. When there was a call for nurses willing to volunteer in COVID hotspots, Sandy stepped forward and flew out to Chicago. The need for nephrology nurses was urgent: AKI is a complication that affects about 15% of all hospitalized coronavirus patients—even those with no previous history of kidney problems—and 20% of the COVID patients in ICU suffer from kidney failure.

Nephrology Nurse Sandy Nichols, RN.
Nephrology Nurse Sandy Nichols, RN

After parting from her husband and 20-year old daughter in New Mexico, for nearly a month Sandy devoted 12-18 hours a day to caring for Chicago’s COVID patients—and she says she’s ready to go back if she’s needed. Sandy told DailyNurse about her background as a nephrology nurse and shared her reflections on the pandemic and her frontline experience.

DailyNurse: How long have you been a nephrology nurse, and how did you decide on this field?

Sandy Nichols: “I have been a nephrology nurse for eight and a half years and have worked in every form of renal replacement therapy available except for kidney transplantation. I first learned about nephrology nursing during my third semester of nursing school when I was one of two nursing students chosen to go for a week of clinicals in a chronic hemodialysis clinic. I hadn’t decided on the field of nursing I wanted to go into yet so I went in with an open mind. From that first day, I was fascinated by the mechanics of the dialysis machines, the concepts of renal replacement therapies, the dedication and involvement in the patients’ health, and the knowledge that I could be giving my patients life because of the care I was providing with every treatment.”

DN: What were your first thoughts about COVID—and what are your current views on the pandemic?

SN: “When I first heard about COVID-19, I thought, “Wow! That is going to spread quickly through China because of the sheer number of people living so close together there.”  I could’ve never imagined what we’ve now seen here. This pandemic has impacted every human being in some way.

“I needed to do this. I felt like it was my calling because both our patients and my colleagues in those cities needed help.”

When Fresenius Kidney Care asked for nurses to volunteer in hospitals because of the rise in acute kidney injury caused by COVID-19, I just knew I needed to do this. I felt like it was my calling because both our patients and my colleagues in those cities needed help. Having seen the effects of this virus firsthand, and helping patients fighting it, the most important message I share with people is to take this seriously. Help us slow the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing, wearing masks, and washing your hands.”

DN: What prompted you to start working on the front lines?

SN: “When I started to hear about all of the different places being hit so hard by COVID-19 and the nursing shortages, I knew I wanted to help in some way. I always had the desire to volunteer when natural disasters would happen but I was never in a position to do so, until now. As soon as Fresenius put out the call for volunteers, I signed up. I knew that I was drawn into nursing to help people and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that then to go and give my fellow nurses support when they so desperately needed it.”

DN: What were the most striking aspects of your experience?

SN: “Going into Chicago, which was known as a hot zone at the time, I was anticipating staffing and supply shortages, long grueling hours, and constant chaos. What was most striking in my time there was the camaraderie that I witnessed and felt every day. The staff was exhausted and overwhelmed working 18 to 24-hour shifts to maintain patient care, but they were all so supportive and helpful of each other. It was so obvious that they were all bound together as one big family. They welcomed me in as one of their own and even invited me to one of their rare potlucks.”

“The staff was exhausted and overwhelmed working 18 to 24-hour shifts to maintain patient care, but they were all so supportive and helpful of each other.”

“I got to see success stories of patients with COVID-19 who survived being on a ventilator and walk out of the hospital. They would announce a “Code Joy” over the intercom and everyone would stop and cheer. I also saw devastating outcomes that broke my heart. Going through those experiences, which I will never forget, gave me a whole new perspective and I truly believe it made me a better person and a better nurse.”

DN: What are you doing now?

SN: “I am currently working in an acute setting at Fresenius Kidney Care in Albuquerque, NM. The camaraderie that I experienced in Chicago has followed me back to Albuquerque because my coworkers are closer to me than ever before. We are there together, going through the same thing, every workday.  I am so thankful for my career and the knowledge I continue to gain every day.  I wouldn’t be the nurse I am today without the support of my work family and my home family as well as my community in New Mexico and my company, Fresenius Kidney Care.”

Nephrology Nurses Week September 13-19, 2020
HRSA Aims to Tackle Opioid Epidemic in New Mexico with $1.35M Grant to New Mexico State University School of Nursing

HRSA Aims to Tackle Opioid Epidemic in New Mexico with $1.35M Grant to New Mexico State University School of Nursing

The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced a three-year, $1.35 million grant will be awarded to the New Mexico State University (NMSU) School of Nursing to fund a project to expand the number of professionals in New Mexico who are trained in interprofessional settings to prevent and treat opioid-use and substance abuse disorders in community-based practices.

This project is a collaboration between the NMSU College of Health and Social Services and the College of Education. It will support interprofessional faculty and community health provider training in the prevention, treatment, and recovery of opioid and substance abuse disorders, part of HRSA’s Opioid Workforce Education Program.

Shelly Noe, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and director of the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, will serve as the project director. She tells newscenter.nmsu.edu, “NMSU will leverage its current academic-practice partnerships to develop planned clinical training experiences in the delivery of OUD and SUD prevention, treatment and recovery services.”

NMSU faculty from three departments will participate in the project through 2021 – the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, the PhD Counseling Psychology program, and the Master of Social Work program.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, New Mexico reported a rate of 24.6 deaths per 100,000 people due to drug overdose in 2017, higher than the overall US rate of 21.7. The outcomes of this project will help achieve a long-term goal to transform integrated behavioral health teams to effectively prevent and treat opioid and substance abuse disorders in New Mexico’s medically underserved communities.

To learn more about the $1.35 million HRSA-funded grant awarded to the NMSU School of Nursing to help prevent and treat opioid and substance abuse disorders in New Mexico, visit here.

Nurse of the Week: New Mexico Nurse Misty Eskridge Proves It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams

Nurse of the Week: New Mexico Nurse Misty Eskridge Proves It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams

Our Nurse of the Week is Misty Eskridge, a 47-year-old resident of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, who graduated with her nursing degree from Central New Mexico Community College this past fall. She has been on a path to a nursing career since 1992 but after extenuating circumstances forced her to put her nursing career on hold, she still found her way back years later.

Eskridge tells abqjournal.com, “We had a family, and then my family was first, then my community, and then working for the school, and then I just decided, hey, it’s my time.”

Although Eskridge never lost per passion for nursing, going back to school wasn’t an option for many years, especially financially. Scholarships helped her pay for nursing school, awarding her peace of mind and a lot of stress off her family.

The Schumann Foundation, a local organization founded by Rio Rancho resident and Kiwanis Club member Douglas Schumann, awarded Eskridge a $2,000 scholarship in 2017 and matched her DeGroot-Akins Rotary Scholarship in 2018.

To learn more about Misty Eskridge, a 47-year-old nurse from New Mexico who just achieved her dream of graduating from nursing school thanks to help from scholarships, visit here.

Nurses of the Week: New Mexico State University Nurse Researchers to Help Border Residents Thanks to Grant

Nurses of the Week: New Mexico State University Nurse Researchers to Help Border Residents Thanks to Grant

Our Nurses of the Week are the researchers from the New Mexico State University (NMSU) School of Nursing who are helping border residents thanks to a grant from the New Mexico Department of Health’s Office of Border Health. The grant is going to fund a project that will separately examine the accuracy of a mobile translation device during mental-health evaluations and create an online, self-care resource for those experiencing urinary incontinence.

In the first project, researchers will conduct a study to determine the accuracy of a mobile device and smartphone app which has the ability to translate speech in real time. The device operates with a corresponding smartphone app that translates speech into a selected language. The research team at NMSU views the device as a possible solution to improve healthcare communication in rural communities along the United States-Mexico border, where language barriers exist between patients and providers.

Stephanie Lynch, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor in NMSU’s School of Nursing who is part of the team conducting the study, tells Newscenter.NMSU.edu, “We’re losing a lot of patients who need help in our area because of providers’ limited Spanish and patients’ limited English. When we learned about this device and saw this grant from the New Mexico Department of Health, we thought: ‘Why can’t we use it in our practices and see if we can reach those people who need help.’”

In a separate project, Lori Saiki, assistant professor in NMSU’s School of Nursing, plans to develop a web-based, educational resource that will help people in the border region who experience urinary incontinence.

The resource will be geared toward community health workers and teach self-care strategies to better manage urinary incontinence. According to Saiki, urinary incontinence affects more than 40 percent of Hispanic women and 18 percent of Hispanic men, and results in significant physical, economic, and psychosocial costs.

To learn more about two new projects from researchers at New Mexico State University’s School of Nursing to develop technologies to help border residents, visit here.

Western New Mexico University Graduates First Cohort of BSN-Level Nurses

Western New Mexico University Graduates First Cohort of BSN-Level Nurses

Western New Mexico University’s (WNMU) first group of students to complete the traditional pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program graduated at a pinning ceremony held this week.

These graduates are already leading in their field simply by enrolling in the BSN program, fulfilling the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendation that the number of nurses holding BSN degrees increase to 80 percent by 2020.

WNMU uses the New Mexico Education Consortium (NMNEC) curriculum, which prepares nurses across the state to deliver patient care. Alexis Harsh, Assistant Professor of Nursing at WNMU, explains the focus on writing intensive courses to WNMU.edu:

“This is the most comprehensive undergrad degree…Nursing school exams feature mainly application and analysis level questions. They aren’t looking for answers that you could memorize the night before the test. What you learned the first day, you have to know the last day. That’s a big change from how most of us do school.”

The nurses who graduated from the BSN program come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of interests for their future nursing careers from pediatrics and NICU nursing to case management and behavioral health. As students, they worked clinicals at a variety of local medical centers and hospitals, averaging 12 clinical hours per week, as well as fulfilling clinical requirements in a child development center, Headstart program, and Walgreens.

This experience allowed these students to network and gain real job experiencing prior to graduating and joining the nursing workforce. The graduates will now study to take the NCLEX exam to receive their Registered Nurse license and begin practicing as nurses.

To learn more about WNMU’s first BSN nursing cohort, visit here.

New Mexico State University Names Alexa Doig School of Nursing Director for Combined Engineering and Nursing Background

New Mexico State University Names Alexa Doig School of Nursing Director for Combined Engineering and Nursing Background

New Mexico State University (NMSU) recently named Alexa Doig the new director of the School of Nursing for her combined experience in the fields of nursing and engineering. Doig’s career has been devoted to research, education, and increasing the quality of patient care.

Doig has spent the last 15 years as a faculty member at the University of Utah, and began her new role at NMSU earlier this month. Her research background includes a wide array of studies from NIH-funded simulation-based research to patient monitoring studies, novice nurse medication errors, and developing testing technology to help nurses triage in a hospital alarm environment.

Doig tells NewsCenter.NMSU.edu, “I’ve been passionate about helping pre-nursing students achieve their goal of getting into the nursing program and at the University of Utah developed a number of different programs for these students, including a pre-nursing learning community, an honors track in nursing, undergraduate research programs and health policy internships. What drew me to NMSU is that the university shares my vision and commitment to student engagement and student success.”

In her new role, Doig hopes to help address New Mexico’s nursing shortage by partnering with local healthcare and community groups and collaborating with other university departments. To learn more about Doig’s new role at NMSU, visit here.

Listen to the Chapter Podcasts for Jonas and Kovner's Health Care Delivery in the United States


Gain a better understanding of the current state of the US health care system and how it might impact your work and life.

You have Successfully Subscribed!