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The Heart of Health Care

The Year of the Nurse provides a challenge met by Scranton nursing alumni and students.

Nurses from the Class of 2013 on the frontlines during the pandemic.
Nurses from the Class of 2013 on the frontlines during the pandemic.

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The Year of the Nurse provides a challenge met by Scranton nursing alumni and students.

A profession that began in the United States during the Civil War, nursing has been a calling that patients may have taken for granted entering 2020.

Nurses are often cited as the “heart of health care,” so it was fitting that, in February, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed 2020 “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.” Little did the world know that, just weeks later, nurses would be at the center of a global crisis.

“The idea of celebrating The Year of the Nurse is a great thing, and we couldn't look any further than COVID-19 to see that."
-Lt. Col. William White

The First Line of Defense

As COVID-19 swept through the nation, University of Scranton nursing graduates around the region and across the country sprang into action as the first defense against the deadly pandemic. And, as their predecessors have for more than 160 years, Scranton nurses stepped up to the challenge. And then some.

“The idea of celebrating The Year of the Nurse is a great thing, and we couldn't look any further than COVID-19 to see that,” said Lt. Col. William White, head of Scranton’s ROTC program that trains several Scranton ROTC nurses a year. “Some of our (ROTC) nurses got mobilized to go all over the world. Those are our nurses out there.”

The University highlighted some stories about nurses in a section in Royal News called Royals Respond. And hundreds of Scranton family members and friends recognized Royals on the frontlines, many of them nurses, through the University’s Honor Roll. These Scranton graduates were undoubtedly “men and women for others” during a time of drastic need.

Maura Regan ‘13 G’14 is one of those nurses.

Regan serves as an acute care occupational therapist at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation in Manhattan. From the beginning of the pandemic, she guided COVID-19 survivors through their post-ventilator recoveries to immense success, so much so that she was named New York Post's " Hero of the Day" on May 26.

“When you’ve been working on one specific task or goal with somebody for multiple sessions over multiple days, and then you finally have that session where they’re able to meet the goal that you both had set or they’re able to accomplish the task that had been taking them a week to work up to,” she said in the Postarticle, “it’s such a joyful moment.”

Regan’s colleagues at NYU Langone include three fellow Scranton alumnae. Liz Waldron Capobianco '01 and Mary Rose Ho '10, serve as nurse educators, and Lauren Garel ’17, joined the hospital as a nurse in March during the pandemic’s peak in New York City. 

In their roles, Capobianco and Ho are responsible for the education of nurses entering the health system as well as the ongoing education needs of all the nurses at NYU.

In just two weeks during the pandemic, they educated an increased number of nurses new to NYU as well as 400+ travel RNs. They trained existing nurses who work in perioperative and procedural settings transition to the inpatient setting and over 200 acute care nurses to care for ICU-level patients as NYU opened more ICUs to meet the needs of the COVID-positive patient population.

“I was amazed at the resilience of the nurses and other health care staff..."
- Hallie Mallozzi ‘21

 Current University of Scranton nursing program students have also joined the fold in the fight against COVID-19, cementing their decision to practice.

Hallie Mallozzi ‘21 of Garden City, New York, used her summer away from Scranton not to pack up the car and head to the beach but to start a grueling internship. She joined NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York, as a student nurse intern. Shadowing a registered nurse, she worked in the surgical wing of the hospital and witnessed its conversion back from the COVID-19 unit. The senior said it was an eye-opening experience.

“I was amazed at the resilience of the nurses and other health care staff, seeing how quickly they adapted to all the change in such a short period of time,” she said.

Once the hospital wing was converted back to a clean surgical wing, visitors were still restricted to limit the spread of COVID, which meant visitors could come to the wing only during the latter half of the day. Because of the restrictions, Mallozzi became like a second family for many patients.

“I learned how important patient-centered care and communication is,” she said. “A lot of the patients were anxious about an upcoming surgery or lonely being in the hospital by themselves. Taking the time to listen to the patients’ concerns or have a conversation with them helped relieve this anxiety and made the time pass quickly until their families could visit them.”

Mallozzi said her experience this summer is one she will never forget as she embarks on her nursing career.

“I found that simple acts like bringing patients their favorite drink or asking about their children would brighten their day,” she said. “The most rewarding aspect of my job this summer was getting to know my patients and seeing how far small acts of compassion could go.”

Continuing Care, Despite Nursing Shortage

Despite Scranton students like Mallozzi having positive nursing experiences during such trying times, not enough people are choosing nursing as a career on a global scale for the amount of care needed. In fact, one of the main reasons the WHO deemed 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” was the fear of a global shortage of nurses in the next decade-plus. Before the coronavirus, a shortage of 9 million nurses in the world by 2030 was estimated.

“We’ve been in a shortage for a long time,” said Dr. Kim Subasic, the chairperson of the Department of Nursing at Scranton. “However, the nursing shortage is further exaggerated due to the aging population and aging nursing faculty. We don’t have enough nursing faculty to educate the number of new nurses needed.”

After dealing with the stresses of the pandemic, will the shortage worsen? This is a question many experts are asking.

“It is too early to guess what effects the pandemic may have on the nursing profession,” said Subasic. “For those who are called to help others, there is no greater profession than nursing, and the time of need is significant. For some nurses, it is possible that the working conditions surrounding the pandemic combined with its duration may cause them to leave the profession earlier than intended.”

"The nursing world is strong and loyal."
- Liz Waldron Capobianco '01

Whatever the future holds, this year has proven that the profession is in the compassionate hands of RoyalRNs. Capobianco said she will continue to educate nurses and reach out to support new Scranton alumni in the profession.

"The nursing world is strong and loyal," she said. "Scranton built a sense of community that is unlike other universities."

Debra Pellegrino, Ed.D., dean of the Panuska College of Professional Studies, touts the “enormous dedication” of Scranton nursing alumni.

“Nursing is a very honorable, authentic and ethical profession,” she said. “Without a doubt, our nurses will continue to take care of the wounded and sick, because they have the spirits of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a wounded soldier, and the skills and expertise of Florence Nightingale within their hearts, heads and hands.

“They have my constant love, not only in 2020 but forever.”

class-of-2013-nurses400.jpegClass of 2013 Nurses pictured in the grid are, from left: Megan Garlasco ‘13, Maggie Beyer ‘13, Keely McClatchy ‘13, Nicole Lamoureux ‘13, Eilish Huvane ‘13, Christina Hiltunen ‘13, Lauren Delle Donne ‘13, Mary Beth Lee ‘13, Katherine Torto ‘13, Lauren Olmstead ‘13, Lisa Girolametti ’13 and Brianna McCullough ’13.


Nurses Andrew Graham '08 and Valerie Lucas '14 are part of the "heroic team" who treated their colleague at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Watch the "Today Show" segment, here.

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