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Allison Gelfarb, BSN, Nu’20,

“This past semester I completed an independent study on Nurse Leadership in the time of a Pandemic, and the Effect of the Coronavirus on Mental Health of Nurses.

My research for this study focuses on how the nurse’s role changes in the time of a pandemic, as well as how members of a health care team navigate their own personal struggles with moral distress, depression, and anxiety.

The study came to life this summer when I cared for a patient who had been a nurse working on a COVID unit during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York. She was admitted to the unit for Major Depressive Disorder and Suicidal Ideations.

Sitting in on the initial evaluation for this patient, I began to truly understand the depths of the illness. Her story struck me to the core, and I found myself listening to her from the start of my shift until patient curfew at 10 p.m.

We talked about why she had decided, like me, to pursue a career in nursing, her time working as an RN, and how she ended up in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit. The patient shared how difficult it was to stay strong and composed in front of her patients when inside she felt as though her world was crashing.

This made me think about the “Penn Face”, and how perhaps nurses also have their own “Nurse Face”.

I know that pursuing a career as a psychiatric nurse is not going to be easy. Shifts will be long, patients may be demanding, unappreciative, or aggressive, and the workload will be heavy. Each day will present new challenges. Patience, tenacity, empathy, and critical thinking will be required at all times. Despite these obstacles, I feel confident that I want to dedicate my time to helping others in the mental health space.”

To submit your own story, visit www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.