Auburn Nursing book featuring alumni stories from the front lines of pandemic available now

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The Auburn University School of Nursing has created a commemorative book, featuring stories from some of its alumni who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free book, “Auburn Nursing — Living the Creed During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” can be ordered online at the Auburn University Bookstore. Limited quantities are available, and a shipping fee will be applied at checkout.

The initial idea for the book came about as the school was marking its 40th anniversary during the 2019-20 school year. As nurses around the country were thrust onto the front lines of the COVID-19 response, the school began to hear stories of its alumni facing the unimaginable. They reached out for more, and the book was born.

Dean Gregg Newschwander writes in the book foreword how “a far-off disease arrived and changed everything for everyone overnight” and Auburn nurses—veteran nurses, new graduates and current students—rose to the challenge, putting themselves in harm’s way to do their jobs.

They “answered the call to serve on the front lines, at the epicenters and in rural communities. They worked in their hometowns, they deployed to where they were needed most. They cared for every patient population—newborns, homeless people, the elderly and inmates. They ensured supply chains. They researched potential vaccines. They were terrified and exhausted; determined and resilient. They became patients themselves. They lost family, friends and coworkers.”

Whitney Burford Bisland, a 2004 alumna, wasn’t one of the health care workers who flew to New York City to help; she already lived there.

“I will always remember …,” she wrote, “the two babies I delivered in front of the hospital because their moms were too scared of COVID to come earlier.”

Cortney Black, a 2016 Auburn alumna, got permission from her emergency room in Anniston, Alabama, to spend 21 days in New York. “I felt a lot of heartache and a lot of sadness, but I also felt more compassion, more unity, more kindness than ever before.”

Ross Nickoley, a 1994 alumnus, doesn’t work or live in New York or anywhere close to a big city. For those people served by the small critical access hospital in rural Winamac, Indiana, “we are the front line. I am the sole CRNA for this community, and my world changed the second week of March,” he said.

Lauren Agee, a 2020 alumna, works as an oncology nurse at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, one of the major sites treating COVID-19 in Atlanta. She recalled the day she was talking on the phone with the mother of a 20-year-old who had to be emergently intubated, while holding the hand of “a dying elderly woman because you promised her husband of 60-plus years you wouldn’t let her die alone. You secretly are praying she holds out for a few more days until the morgue has more space.”

Newschwander said the stories illustrate the difficulty and harsh reality of an overwhelming situation.

“At Auburn, we often say, we make leaders,” he said. “In this book, you will see how true that is.

“The individual reflections tell the universal story of Auburn nurses living the Auburn Creed during this historic time.”

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