Ever since she was little, Courtney Massey wanted to be a nurse. She was one of few people who mapped out her career at a young age, and she took that plan with her all the way to Martin Methodist College, not far from her home in Columbia.
Even before she was admitted into the nursing program, Massey wanted the experience and exposure of a true hospital, so she applied to be a student nurse tech, aiming to prepare herself for a very demanding yet rewarding career path as a registered nurse.
When admitted to the MMC nursing program, Massey opted to continue serving as a student nurse tech, even as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began to spread globally, silencing towns, cities and countries.
With COVID-19 making its way to her hospital, Massey’s work as a student nurse tech, where she would float among floors and offer service when needed, began to change from the comfort of familiarity toward an almost foreign workplace she could not quite wrap her mind around.
Still tasked with similar yet unsettling work, Massey was asked during one of her 13-hour night shifts to sit outside the room with a patient who was recently classified as a one-on-one and needed round-the-clock monitoring.
“This shift was different from any other I have ever worked,” Massey explained, “because I was asked to take care of a patient who was positive for COVID-19.”
At the time, there were only three positive COVID-19 cases at Massey’s hospital, and when asked to sit with a positive patient, she agreed despite the nerves trying to cripple her.
“I had no clue what to expect or think,” Massey said. “I was so nervous that I was almost in tears.”
Alone with her patient, Massey’s mind began to succumb to the fear that she had been trying to fight off throughout her shift.
“I was worried all night about if I was putting my Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on appropriately, if I was going to spread this, if I was going to take this home with me, if I was protected enough and if I was taking care of this patient well enough,” Massey said, adding that her biggest fear was bringing the virus home and infecting a family member or herself.
While overwhelmed with rapid, frightening thoughts that were threatening to overcome her, Massey’s patient asked for a shared prayer, and in that moment of soft, still prayer, from one voice of fear to another, Massey’s focus shifted from her own frantic thoughts to that of her patient.
“I started to wonder how my patient felt,” she said. “People with COVID-19 who are hospitalized have got to feel so lonely and helpless. They are probably just as scared, if not more so, than us.”
In that quiet moment of reflection and realization, Massey put her patient’s health above her worries, shoving her fear to the back seat and silencing her constant thoughts of “what ifs.”
At the end of her shift, Massey was drained because, for the first time, COVID-19 had morphed into something very real to her. With hands red and raw from excessive washing and a swollen face finally free after 13 hours with a mask, she sat in her car, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she reflected on her shift, on COVID-19, and on this new reality, still coming back toward a single thought.
“I am still excited to be a registered nurse one day,” Massey said. “I am so eager to help and take care of people. I want to give people hope and make sure these people know that we are doing everything in our power to help them.
“I don’t like going into a room and thinking this person in front of me seeking help is a patient — I like to see them as a person, as a human who deserves treatment and acknowledgment no matter the circumstances,” she added. “I think that’s really important, especially with everything that’s going on right now.”
While now working a little less for the time being, Massey has more time to focus on her studies and her goal to become a registered nurse. Despite facing a global pandemic square on, a challenge bravely fought by so many, Massey is more determined than ever to graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Martin Methodist College so she can continue to spread faith and hope to the many people she will help as a registered nurse.