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Even a Pandemic Won't Stop This Nurse

National Nurses Week: One Nurse's Journey | Cedars-Sinai

National Nurses Week Honors Resilience, Hard Work and Heroism of Critical Healthcare Professionals

Charlotte Guevarra, RN, says she would go through it all again. All the long shifts covered in hot personal protective equipment (PPE). All the nights she slept in her basement to protect her family from any possibility of catching the virus from her. All the phone calls she made to worried relatives of her patients.

"Even if it's gonna be another COVID, another thing like this, I will still be a nurse. Because I love doing it," Guevarra said. "I love taking care of patients. I like to see them get better, and (watch them) be able to come home to their family.”

Guevarra, an intensive care nurse at Cedars-Sinai for the past 15 years, acknowledges that the pandemic, which uprooted Southern California beginning in March 2020, was the toughest time in her career. But as National Nurses Week approaches, Guevarra said that she and many of her colleagues are taking a moment to reflect on what it was like to be on the front lines, fighting the pandemic.

“I love being a nurse, but I think this is the toughest time of my nursing career because I’ve never seen so many people die,” Guevarra said. “The thing that we were scared of most is that they would die alone. That patient is somebody’s mother, somebody’s dad, somebody’s wife, somebody’s child, and at that moment, sometimes we’re the only one that’s there.”

The 45-year-old mother of two children,13 and 21, also was concerned for the health and safety of her own family–even moving into a spare room in the basement to protect them.

“It was so difficult because for months I could not even hug my own children,” she said. “I was living downstairs in my office, separated from them. It was hard. I always get my strength from them, from my kids, from my husband.”

For a time, she even stopped taking walks around her neighborhood for fear of exposing others to the virus.

Meanwhile, her co-workers became an essential source of support.

“We became really close. We were like family,” said Guevarra. “We were there for each other. And you know, nurses are very resilient. Even if it's difficult, we always step up to the plate.”

Food, small gifts, thank-you notes and other donations from the community were “kind of like fuel for us,” she said.

David Marshall, JD, DNP, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing executive at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, isn't surprised to learn that Guevarra would go through it again if necessary.

"The pandemic tested all healthcare workers in ways we never imagined," Marshall said. "But the dedication and resourcefulness of our 3,000 nurses powered us through to a better day."

Guevarra hopes that more people will get vaccinated against COVID-19 so that this health crisis can come to an end. But she will be ready if there is another pandemic.

“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, even when I was a child,” Guevarra said. “I like taking care of people and making a difference in their lives, and I’m so honored to be able to do that.”