For the past three years, Sonia Suri ’13 has been working as a mother-baby nurse in Dallas, Texas. These days, Sonia is striving to be flexible and gracious as she works to bring a human connection to her patients, while advocating for herself and her fellow nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. What does an average day look like for you now?
My days are completely different since COVID-19. It feels like everything has been turned upside down and nothing is as it was before. Normally, I just stick to my specialized field of couplet care. Of course we always have patients with challenging cases, but now we also account for, “Are they symptomatic? Do we need to be concerned?” Protocols are changing almost every day about how we take care of these moms and babies. As nurses, we have also started being floated into other units–for example I was in the ICU yesterday. The hospital is different than I have ever experienced. I am trying to be flexible and patient.
2. What has been the most challenging aspect of your work during this unprecedented time?
Right now it is very difficult to balance realism and optimism. It is very easy to become disillusioned by the frequently changing hospital policies and personal protective equipment distribution. But at the same time, as healthcare workers we are all on the front lines and the only way to push forward in these harsh times is to maintain some level of optimism. I think it’s all about having perspective–what is my role in this, what little things do I have in my control to make things better?
3. Have there been moments of joy? What inspires you?
I became a mother-baby nurse because I wanted to do a nursing job that required a lot of patient interaction and education. Throughout all of this I have been able to keep this, which has been grounding. Additionally, during my very first ICU shift I was able to provide care to some patients who are very different from my normal patient population. I do not have the skills to manage all of the medical aspects of ICU care, but I am able to take the time to connect with these patients. It was nice to be able to bring humanity to patients who are very isolated. Just taking the time to talk to people who are being quarantined and are alone reminded me why I do this work.
4. How are you caring for yourself? Who is supporting you?
I have a good support system. I live with my fiancé, who is also a Bronco. We were actually supposed to get married last month but had to postpone due to the pandemic. Keeping a connection with my family has been really important. I have actually been able to connect with many of my Santa Clara friends who are now reaching out because they have more time. It has been so refreshing to hear from them–the pandemic has given us more time to connect and has shown how supportive they can be, making sure I am OK since they know I am a nurse.
5. What can Broncos do to support their communities during this time?
I think I would say first, practice social distancing and try not to go out more than you need to. But I also think the biggest thing Broncos can do is be advocates for healthcare reform and public health. Our current system isn’t working for workers or our patients. I think many Broncos are in positions to advocate for these changes within the system.
Because of this pandemic, at the hospital, I have often had to ask myself, “Do I address an issue or concern knowing that it most likely will be dismissed?” I have learned that the answer is yes, and I encourage all alumni to gracefully speak their truth and voice their concerns, even if they know that they [the comments] will be dismissed. Change cannot be achieved until we establish that a system is broken or that injustice is taking place. While this could feel challenging, I think my education at SCU gave me the building blocks to identify injustice and to work to change it, even if it is in small ways. I don’t know if I would be able to do this if I had not gone to SCU. The university instilled in me a sense of empowerment to action that has stayed with me to this day.
6. What is your favorite place on SCU’s campus?
There is a sitting area in front of Kenna Hall that is covered in vines. I used to like to sit there between classes and watch people pass by. My second favorite place would be the steps of O’Connor Hall on a sunny day. These places were really relaxing. Even when I go back and visit, I’ll sit there for a little bit.
Also see Sonia's interview with Father O'Brien in Bridging the Distance!