UAMS Nurses, Respiratory Therapists Help New York City with COVID-19

By Ben Boulden

On April 18, Witzke and her coworkers flew out of Little Rock to work for a few weeks at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, which is treating a large number of COVID-19 patients. The other registered nurses from UAMS are Perry Keller, Rachel McDole, Charity Martin, Richard Milam, Lissa Richmond and Lindsey Richardson.

Two respiratory therapists from UAMS, Tina Patton and Enrique “Henry” Campbell-Gomez, also volunteered to help out in Brooklyn.

“I was too scared to go by myself, but going as a team is giving me the chance to do something that has been on my heart for a while,” Witzke said. “We’ve all been watching the stories and wanting to help, and New York City is one of our nation’s gems.”

Megan Witzke, R.N., center, answers questions from a local TV reporter on the day before her departure for New York.

Megan Witzke, R.N., center, answers questions from a local TV reporter on the day before her departure for New York.Image by Bryan Clifton

A call asking for volunteers went out April 10 by email to nursing staff, and by the following Monday, the team members had signed up to go to New York.

They all began talking to a recruiter and executive in the New York-Presbyterian system, who helped coordinate the logistics of the journey.

Witzke, a single mother, also had to arrange with family to take care of her two sons and find a housesitter.

Witzke works in the nursing float pool in UAMS Medical Center and has cared for some of the COVID-19 patients at UAMS..

“I have some experience travel nursing, and my specific experience as a float pool nurse means I show up to one of 13 units on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “The different units also have different modalities of care, and I adapt to each one of those. I feel prepared on that level. We’ll get up there and do our best.”

Witzke said the tremendous support she and her fellow RNs have received from UAMS leadership, especially Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, has given her the feelings of safety and security she needed to volunteer for what she anticipates will be a challenging job in New York.

The initial call for volunteers was for a two-week stint, but Witzke said she will stay as long as patients there need her and as long as she can be spared from her duties here as a nurse and her obligations as a mother.

“All my experiences have prepared me for New York as a nurse. We will do our best just as we do on any day,” she said. “We’ll peer pressure those New York nurses to call the Hogs though, if we can.”