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New nurses around Maine share work, schooling experiences amidst COVID-19

Nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the U.S., with more than 3.8 million workers, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

MAINE, USA — Like so many other people, daily life looks different these days for Leah Civiello -- but in her case, those changes may be a bit more profound. She's a registered nurse at St. Joseph Hospital and is going on her one year anniversary of working in the cardiology and pulmonary floor, since graduating last May.

"It’s been pretty busy," Civiello expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom, wearing her face-mask, cap, and scrubs. She is one of the millions of nurses around the country, adjusting to work-life during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We don't have families in with us," Civiello said. "We're talking over the phone with family members, really trying to interact with a bunch of different people."

RELATED: What it's like working on the front lines of cancer during COVID-19

At Maine Medical Center in the intensive care unit, clinical nurse I Graham Ratner has had a similar experience.

"It’s been quite difficult, quite stressful," Ratner emphasized. "But ultimately (it's been) very rewarding in pretty much every experience that I’ve had."

Some of that stress has come from long shifts -- between 12 and 15 hours -- and the fact that the field is constantly changing. For Ratner though, that's something he enjoys.

"I go into work every day and love what I’m doing there, regardless of what sort of adversities we have to face."

Nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the United States, with more than 3.8 million people working in the field and hundreds of thousands more entering each year, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing

RELATED: From learning online to working on the front lines: New Maine nurses are ready to fight COVID-19

Bridget Squires will soon be one of the new R.N.'s at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. She has been a part of the hospital's new "Work to Grow" program for the past year and is set to finish her schooling next week. 

"It really is a mixture of excitement and nervous(ness)," Squire smiled, regarding how she feels about taking on the field during a pandemic. Her journey began in 2016 after a battle with cancer. She says the experience made her realize how important nurses are because of how well they care for her when she was in the hospital, and so as soon as she was cleared, she took on the challenge.

The time training hasn't come without challenges. The coronavirus pandemic forced the program to move to digital and online learning, which has meant some lost time working with actual patients. Squire had that experience as a certified nursing assistant before COVID-19 hit hospitals and says it makes a difference.

"You need to know (patients') risks, their beliefs, their lives," Squire stressed. "It’s not like a computer-generated dummy is going to tell you the same thing that a real-life patient is going to tell you."

At Mid Coast Hospital, Michele Frost is preparing to graduate this Saturday. It's something she says she is incredibly excited about, having finally found her calling after switching career paths a number of times.

"I knew that I wanted a job that I would go with the home at the end of the day and just felt like I made a difference," Frost told NEWS CENTER Maine via Zoom.

National Nurses Week goes through Tuesday, May 12.

RELATED: NATIONAL NURSES WEEK: Celebrating those heroes that are working for us during the coronavirus pandemic

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus.