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A sendoff for nurses from New York who treated COVID-19 patients in Utah
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A sendoff for nurses from New York who treated COVID-19 patients in Utah

(Intermountain Chief Nursing Executive Susan Robel presents a framed "Thank You" note to Northwell nurses. Credit: Paul Nelson)

MURRAY – A fond farewell from Intermountain Health Care to a group of nurses from New York who helped treat COVID-19 patients when Utah’s cases were spiking.  Both groups say they learned a lot from this experience, but some have serious concerns about how the virus could spread in Utah in the near future. 

The staff at Intermountain Hospital in Murray held a farewell party, of sorts, for 10 different nurses who made the trip to Salt Lake City to help treat COVID-19 patients when the number of cases was climbing here.  Northwell Health in New York sent 30 nurses to Utah as a token of gratitude for Intermountain Healthcare, sending 100 health workers to The Big Apple at the height of the pandemic.

Utah’s hospitals were never as overwhelmed as New York City’s were.  Officials with Intermountain say Northwell treated 70 thousand patients at the worst point in the crisis, more than any other health system in the country.  Intermountain Chief Nursing Executive Susan Robel says that intense workload gave nurses in New York a perspective that many other workers across the country don’t have.

She says, “It really gave our caregivers perspective on what could come and how to deal with it.”

For instance, Robel says New York nurses discovered new ways to “prone” patients, which is simply just a method to lay patients down.  Some of those proning methods improved oxygenation among COVID-19 patients, making them recover quicker.

Intermountain Shock Trauma Nurse Manager Sean Talley says both New Yorkers and Utahns learned a lot from this exchange.  He was impressed by how flexible the Northwell nurses were, and how quick they threw themselves into their work.

“We have five different adult ICU’s in this hospital.  The way we run each unit is similar, but there are nuances to it and to watch them in action, after the second or third day, you wouldn’t even know they were from out of town,” Talley says.

Most of the New Yorkers said the mountain views and the hospitality of the people in Utah will be things they will always remember.  However, Northwell Health Nurse Nancy Delasalle says she’s very worried for the people who won’t wear masks.  She says New Yorkers don’t really have a choice but to wear one.

She says, “It makes me nervous that they’re not because I know what we’ve been through and seen.  Then, I say to myself, ‘Why is she not wearing a mask?  Why would you even take the chance of not wearing a mask?’”

Delasalle says if people would have seen how bad things got in New York, they would be more prone to wear one.

“They haven’t been in there.  They probably haven’t had anybody affected by it.  In New York, every single person has had somebody affected,” she adds.