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Registered nurse from eastern Iowa returns after helping COVID-19 patients in New York City

Dawn Meyer dons a face mask while working as a travel nurse at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn in an undated photo. (Courtesy: Dawn Meyer)
Dawn Meyer dons a face mask while working as a travel nurse at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn in an undated photo. (Courtesy: Dawn Meyer)(KCRG)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 3:14 PM CDT
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Dawn Meyer is a travel nurse, who usually takes jobs in Iowa, but after hearing of the need in New York City, she responded in early April.

Meyer was part of a group of nurses taking shifts working with COVID-19 patients at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn.

"Everyone knew how to be a nurse, so you know you just hit the ground running," Meyer said. "They gave us a white jumpsuit to wear to protect our clothing, we had a face shield, then an N-95 then another mask to put over it."

Meyer quickly noticed some communication barriers. She estimated 75% of her patients spoke a language other than English. That made assessing someone's pain more difficult at times.

"In an ideal world you could use language line and call and connect back and forth," Meyer said. "But a lot of times it was okay, I need to find a Russian speaking nurse so I can ask my patient a question, then you would try to hunt someone down."

Capacity at the hospital was pushed to the limit as more patients kept arriving. The facility had to re-open units that were shut down decades before.

Meyer said private rooms were rarely available, leading to more patients becoming exposed to one another.

"They would stick six people in a room and nobody had call lights," Meyer said. "People didn't have any pillows and blankets were short. In some of the makeshift units we couldn't find cups for water."

Despite the hardships, Meyer knew how much the patients and hospital depended on the nursing staff; that kept her going. And, she said she always felt safe.

"Everyone in New York had masks on and you didn't come across someone who didn't. So I feel like I was more protected out there than even here because everyone was so careful," Meyer said.

Meyer said she would go work for the public hospitals in New York again if needed.

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