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Celebrating National Nurses Day: Alumni, Students in Health Care Share Their Stories


Nurses and future nurses discuss their inspiration for joining the health care field.

Every day, healthcare workers across the country report for work amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We asked alumni and students who are nurses or are planning to enter the nursing field to share what motivated them to join health care. 

Lisa Savona wearing a medical mask.Lisa Savona '95 (Human Services), Ellis School of Nursing (2013), Registered Nurse (RN) at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

"I had a calling to do this. I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) when I was younger. I love the field. I love taking care of people and making them feel comfortable."

What area do you work in now?

"I work on the traumatic brain injury unit at Sunnyview; that’s my home, but I do float around to other units like neuro and cardio pulmonary."

What has been your experience with COVID-19?

"I have only worked with one COVID-positive patient at the very beginning of this. We now have a dedicated unit which I don’t work on. As more information is coming out about this illness, people are less scared of it on the nursing side. When you think about it, we deal with illnesses and transmittable illnesses every day. We know what we’re doing. We know how to protect ourselves and other people. It’s about the patients. It’s always been about the patients. A lot of people are working in the nitty gritty of it. You won’t find a nurse who’s doing that who is not there for the patients."

Bharat Tillack wearing a collared shirt and tie.Bharat Tillack, Nutrition major, Pharmacy Technician in Schenectady, plans to transfer to pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Nursing to become an RN or General Nurse Practitioner

Why are you drawn to Nursing as your future profession?

"My mom was sick when I was in high school in Guyana. We went to the hospital and the doctor on call was with another patient so the nurse practitioner helped save her…It was from then on that I felt very motivated that nursing was something I wanted to do because a nurse is the first person to see a patient and they can influence their lives. Nursing is a rewarding career and working with people on the path to better health is one of my biggest goals - to help people feel better. Whenever I interact with people if I can help them in a positive way, it means a lot to me…Nursing is my dream."

How has it been going to work every day during the pandemic?

"It has been kind of scary, but we wear masks and gloves all day. Actually, it's a break from being home all the time, so I'm not staying home and stressing over the pandemic. Going to work connecting with people keeps me going since I am a people person.''

Janeae Falu wearing personal protective equipment, including a face shield and mask, holding up a peace sign.Janae Falu, Nutrition major, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Scotia, planning to transfer on for her bachelor’s degree in Nursing

What was your inspiration behind choosing healthcare as a career?

"I have been in healthcare since 2011 when I started working as a CNA. I was going to Orange Community College studying Accounting and had to write a paper comparing majors. I compared Accounting to Nursing and when I got the paper back, my professor said, 'It seems like you have more passion for Nursing than Accounting.' So that's when I started looking into LPN programs."

What are your duties as an LPN?

"I administer medication, take vitals, communicate any issues the residents are experiencing to the doctor, follow doctor orders, observe the residents, and help with mobility."

What do you like about the field?

"I enjoy helping my residents to the best of my ability. Whatever they need, I'm there for them. I can do what they can't do for themselves and what their families can't do for them. It's like a family to me."

Ron Dayter in blue scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck.Ron Dayter '10 (Health Studies), Ellis School of Nursing (2011), RN, Nurse Administrator II at the Capital District Psychiatric Center

What was your motivation to become an RN? 

"My mother was terminally ill for two years and being her health care proxy, I was taking care of her. I would go to work and sleep overnight in the hospital. One night, my Mom had a bad night, and the nurses comforted her and made her feel better. I remember saying the next day, 'I want to do that, I want to be a nurse'; and my Mother said, 'You can do it.' She passed away in May 2009 and I enrolled immediately into the Health Studies program that fall to take my prerequisites before Nursing school. Prior to that, I had gone to college for acting and had been an actor in New York City. I had also been managing restaurants for a decade."

What keeps you motivated on a daily basis?

"Problem solving - managing a psych center is all about problem solving. We're taking care of nine counties; 17 police departments work with us for patients who need help and assessment and we have to problem solve all that influx. We're doing triage, working with a mobile crisis team; we have patients on constant observation, involving medical treatment as well as psychiatric - I like that. Working with a team (doctors, nurses, patients, residents on call) for the best outcome of the patient is all the motivation I need."

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

"It really impacted us hugely in the beginning. Now it's a routine. We deal with people from the community coming in off of the street so we had to immediately decide on a new process. We had to ask questions at the door, have a new area to screen people coming in, and create beds and units for those who might need to quarantine. I teach people how to put on and take off P.P.E. (personal protective equipment). And right away we needed to calm fears and team build, and remind employees about how blessed we are that we are essential and we can we can help others and go to work and have some socialization on a daily basis when a lot of American are not having that opportunity."