When the pandemic hit the U.S., cardiac nurse Monique Washington ’91 began managing a team of nurses that was converted into a dedicated COVID-19 unit at the VA North Texas Hospital in Dallas. Since March, the VA has been accepting and treating Veterans who caught COVID-19, and Washington has been at the forefront in making sure that the front-line nurses are being taken care of as well.
As the staff worked around the clock, Washington implemented a “Got your 6” system to care for her team. This system included measures like monitoring the time spent in patients’ rooms, ensuring PPE supplies for everyone, and maintaining a regular break schedule. “This has been a humbling experience and we are battle weary. I have a great team and I took their safety, health and welfare very seriously. My focus was to provide psychological safety to the team so that they felt supported,” says Washington. “I wanted the team to treat COVID-19 as an ‘enemy’ that must be respected and never underestimated at all times.”
Washington also connected with the Long Gray Line and received meals almost daily from the women of West Point Class of 1991, who “gripped hands” with their classmate and showed the team of nurses lots of support by providing meals and supplies.
Washington, who also holds a BSN from the University of Texas, then took her experience of caring for nursing teams a step further and teamed up with nurses Zeyneba Mustafa, Doreen Ekwerike and Dr. Vetta Sanders-Thompson, co-director of the Center for Community Health Partnership and Research at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University to create a COVID-19 ‘Survival Guide for Nurses’ to help navigate the changes and updates that have resulted from the pandemic.