Alumna reflects on starting her nursing career during the coronavirus pandemic
By Taylor Utzig
Nina Herkert (BSN ‘19) was only months into her first nursing job when the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic hit. “Being a first-year nurse in the emergency department during a pandemic–I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed,” she says.
Herkert works at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, where she just finished her orientation in April 2020. As a young nurse, Herkert says it’s been a difficult experience trying to develop confidence in her nursing skills on top of the challenges facing all health care professionals during this public health crisis. “Along with the fears of shortcomings in my new nursing skills, I now have the challenge of lack of supplies, large patient volumes, and the concern of contracting the virus. I anticipated difficulties in my first year as a nurse, but I never anticipated this.
Though as a Loyola Nursing graduate, Herkert finds strength by drawing on her Jesuit education. During her four years at Loyola, Herkert traveled to Lourdes, France, where she learned about the important role faith and hope play in a patient’s health. It’s a lesson that continues to inform her commitment to quality care. “Being a Loyola Nurse means using my understanding of people as both body and soul and walking alongside them on their health care journey,” reflects Herkert.
After attending Catholic schools most of her life, Herkert says it was Loyola’s Jesuit identity that attracted her to the University. She also was impressed by Loyola’s connections to hospitals in Chicago and the opportunities offered for her clinical experience.
Being a Loyola Nurse means using my understanding of people as both body and soul and walking alongside them on their health care journey
Herkert spent most of her clinical work at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, which she recalls as one of the most important parts of her nursing education at Loyola. “I’ll always remember the nurses who taught me how to be resourceful when faced with a lack of supplies, something that is coming in handy in the face of mask and ventilator shortages.”
Perhaps ironically, the spread of the coronavirus pandemic coincides with the Year of the Nurse, a World Health Organization declaration recognizing the impact nurses and midwives have on health care. To Herkert, this coincidence reinforces the commitment she made at the start of her nursing career. “I knew going into nursing would be messy and hard, but the Year of the Nurse shows that even though nursing is messy and hard, it is also beautiful and worthy of praise.”