As the coronavirus pandemic began in the United States, New Orleans surged in cases and Tulane Medical Center became overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Fortunately, nurses from other states volunteered to travel to New Orleans to help. Now, nurses from Tulane Medical are repaying the favor.
Tulane nurse Katie New told CBS News she and her coworkers didn't know what to expect at the start of the pandemic. "We became overwhelmed very quick. It was chaotic. It was a scary time," she said.
In the beginning of April, 200 nurses from other HCA Healthcare hospitals, which runs Tulane Medical Center, flew there to pitch in. Many of the nurses came from HCA Healthcare's Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
New said the visiting nurses were crucial in lowering the nurse-to-patient ratio from six patients to one nurse, down to a 2-to-1 ratio.
"For them to come out to us during the start of this pandemic and never have treated [COVID-19] before, I think they get a big ups to them, because that was a very scary situation that they signed themselves up for," New said.
The pandemic continued to rage on and earlier this month, parts of the midwest started becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Now, it was the Kansas City nurses who needed help.
New and her colleagues answered the call.
"We were asked by our manager on Wednesday if we would be interested in coming to help the Kansas City nurses out," New said. "We all work so tightly together and we knew we could take on any challenge. And we were helped so much and we knew what they were facing, and it was only right that we paid them back."
New and her coworkers arrived on November 20 and have been asked to stay in Kansas City until December 5.
Research Medical Center nurse Kylee Bolen is impressed nurses from Louisiana traveled to her city to help. "We are so appreciative of them coming, especially coming during this time, being away from their family and friends," Bolen told CBS News. "We just called and asked them for help, and like Katie said, it was without hesitation."
For New, traveling to Kansas City was a way to repay the favor. "To be able to give them that relief that we know we received from them, it further locks in that nursing is a brother and sisterhood and I know that I chose the right profession," New said.
The Tulane nurses were in Kansas City over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. While they were away from their friends and family, they were closer than ever to their fellow nurses — and bonded with other Research Medical Center staff.
"The cafeteria workers, every time we'd walk in, they'd say, 'New Orleans!'" she said. "They've given us great recommendations on places to eat — barbecue spots because Kansas City is so famous for barbecue."
"It's been a bonding experience for sure," New said.
"Having a group of people who were willing to drop everything and come help makes me so proud to work here," Bolen said.