Q&A: Louisiana Nurse Anesthetist Heads To New York City To Fight COVID-19

Apr 13, 2020

Nate Jones has been nurse anesthetist since 2011, practicing in New York City. Four years in, he and his wife, Annie, moved to New Orleans because they loved it here.

After working at Oschsner at Kenner, he joined an agency and worked in Shreveport and in a small town in California — Turlock.

Now, he's heading back to New York this week for a month to support the fatigued medical staff at Mount Sinai Hospital battle COVID-19.

He spoke with his neighbor — New Orleans Public Radio's Eileen Fleming — from a safe distance on her porch about what he's thinking about as he returns to New York.

Eileen Fleming: What are your personal concerns about this?

Nate Jones: I mean obviously I want to make sure that I keep myself healthy as well. But, I don't know. I haven't thought about that a ton. I just feel like as long as they have the proper mask and gowns and things, which I know are in short supply — I feel, like, an obligation to help, you know, like it's one of the qualified people and not everyone can do that and there's a lot of people in need. So hopefully I'll be able to help in some capacity.

You're going to Mt. Sinai, correct?

That's correct, yes. I took an assignment doing COVID patients. I'm not sure which Sinai facility I'll be at yet. They haven't told me. I think they sort of assess the need more, like, last minute. So there a few different places I can be. But I'll be doing that, which will be a little bit more like ICU, only I have more skill now in terms of my training, so I'll be doing more things like incubating patients and that sort of thing. At least that's my impression. It's sort of wide open. I think they're kind of taking it as it comes in terms of what they need.

What are you anticipating?

Oh gosh. Normally in my job the patients I take care of are obviously in a very vulnerable setting because they're under anesthesia for surgery. But it's also short lived, right? So my interaction with one particular person — first of all it's one person at a time, obviously. I can't take care of two people at a time. And it's maybe for half an hour, or it's three hours or four hours. And then they're on their way. This will be more, like, people are going to be there for a long time. I'm anticipating managing multiple patients at once, so I guess I'll see how they use me. I'm not sure.

How long are you going to be in Manhattan?

It's a 30-day commitment initially. Then I guess I'll re-assess and see. I think I'm going to work pretty long hours. They have a lot of need. So I'll be working 12-hour shifts. I imagine I will be overnight but I don’t know. It could be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but I don’t know. It could be the opposite of that. I’m not sure which.

Do they arrange housing for you?

For this one they do. Some assignments do, some assignments don't. In this particular case, I'll be staying at a hotel, an extended-stay hotel.

Would you think about coming back here and doing it here?

Yeah, if they have the same kind of opportunity come up, then yeah. I would absolutely consider that. I've actually had a recruiter reach out to gauge interest and I said I would be interested. I haven't heard anything since then. So we'll see.

Have any of your colleagues sat around talking, like, 'Do you believe this? Have you ever seen anything like this?'

It's a little bit funny because I've not really had any interaction with people in my profession other than via text since this has happened. So beyond that I think people are just like, 'there's so much uncertainty.' It's an unprecedented time, that's for sure.