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'A big hug to my superhero nurses!' | University of Maryland Health Center nurses aid first responders tackle pandemic

In honor of "Nurse Appreciation Week," we want to express our gratitude to the nurses serving on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — From testing to vaccinations, our healthcare workers continue to be on the frontlines helping us through the coronavirus pandemic.

Rita Devens began working at the University of Maryland Health Center 12 years ago and said nothing can compare to the last 12 months.

“When we were having the big outbreaks, it was blinders on and we were putting our heads down and seeing the patients and working,” said Devens.

Even when classes went virtual, the University of Maryland Health Center never shut down. 

"Within the health center, the walk-in clinic quickly became the COVID clinic," said Devens. "When we first started, we were all really nervous seeing the patients because there was a constant change in information. We were never sure how we were going to get exposed so we were all very anxious, including the poor students."

Devens said they went from rarely using an N-95 mask to living in the full PPE gear all day, every day. 

"We were dressed in our full PPE all the time when we saw the patients and we followed our protocols," said Devens.

Nurses who retired came back to the University of Maryland Health Center to help with testing. 

"We treated all the patients at the health center and prevented them from having to go to the emergency room when we could assess that they had COVID but they were not in danger of having respiratory distress," said Devens.

Credit: WUSA9

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Credit: Rita Devens

"Our nurses here are like family. We’re all family. We know what is going on with everybody so a big hug to my superhero nurses at the health center and also my nurse is working the COVID testing," said Devens.

In mid-April, the team at the University of Maryland Health Center reached a milestone by testing more than 3,000 people in a single day.

"When we kind of step back a little bit, we saw how much the health center was really key in keeping the school open, keeping the students safe and trying to prevent the outbreaks that were occurring," said Devens.

After all the challenges during the past year, Devens said it was a powerful moment administering the first COVID vaccine on campus.

"I gave out a big cheer and hoo-rah when I gave the first vaccine and said 'Yay! We got the vaccine. We are one step closer to going back to normal,'" said Devens. It’s wonderful to see the kids come in excited to receive the vaccine and we are all cheering at the same time."

Devens said they are now helping give the second dose of the vaccine and are slowly seeing signs of things returning to normal.

"We are seeing injuries now and allergies and things like that so it is kind of pleasant to see some of the normal stuff is coming back," said Devens.

As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, there is progress thanks to the work of so many tirelessly working nurses.

"All the students, I want them to come back with vaccines on board so that we can get back to some normalcy. And, everybody still needs to wear masks and wash their hands," said Devens.

Credit: Rita Devens
Credit: Rita Devens

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