Florida XC, T&F Alumni Lead Pandemic Frontlines

Laura Plaza has worked as a nurse for AdventHealth since late April. While she doesn't directly deal with COVID-19 patients, she still takes extra precautions on the job to make sure that she and the patients that she cares for are safe.

"I'm not particularly in a COVID unit, but patients do come into my unit for heart problems or pulmonary problems," she said. "Sometimes when patients come in, they have to get tested. So sometimes when a patient is a COVID rule out, it's a bit nerve wrecking because you don't know who they've been, who they've been with and if they might be positive for COVID. So sometimes you have to take extra precaution when a patient is a COVID rule out to make sure that you're safe and that everyone else is safe."

Plaza works for the Cardiopulmonary Progressive Care Unit at AdventHealth. She helps take care of patients who have issues such as patients having difficulty breathing, patients whose pacemakers aren't properly working and needs to be interrogated, patients whose heart isn't pumping enough blood to their body among other issues.

When a patient comes into the hospital, they get tested for the virus. They're considered a Droplet precaution until the hospital knows if they're a COVID rule out. While Plaza's floor isn't a COVID unit, if the test results show that a patient on her floor has the virus, then they would move to a COVID unit.

AdventHealth has taken precautionary measures to make sure that the medical staff stays safe. One of the precautions is for the nurses to wear masks for the entire duration of their shift except when they're eating.

Plaza said that wearing the masks aren't comfortable and it causes headaches for the nurses due to them breathing back in their own air for a prolonged period of time. But for her, she'd rather take the precaution of wearing the mask than to risk getting sick.

"It's either have a headache, or get sick," she said. "I'd rather have a headache for the day than to get sick."

Another added precaution that was put in place was including if the patient tested positive or negative for the virus in the handoff report that the nurses receive.

Plaza takes personal precautions to ensure her safety when she leaves the hospital, including washing her car seats after every shift, removing her uniform equipment before going home and seeing her family, just to make sure that they're safe.

"You leave the hospital and you feel icky, you don't want to touch anything," she said. "You feel like you're carrying everything from the hospital in your clothes and in your hands."

Plaza ran cross country and was a pole vaulter and 300 meter hurdler for Lake Nona High School in Orlando. Her favorite event when she competed was the pole vault. Being goal oriented as an athlete has helped her as a nurse. 

"Being able to do sports and having a goal and practicing towards that goal is what helps me," "You have the goal of keeping everybody safe and going towards that goal...it keeps me having a goal directed mindset.

One of the things that Plaza leans on is her family and close friends, especially when the job gets difficult.

"My family is a big support," she said. "When I come home they always ask me how I've been, how was my day. Being able to talk about my day with either my family or nursing colleagues, my nursing school friends, or my personal friends...sometimes work is frustrating, but if you have a way of venting it out, it helps."