Christiam Fajardo earned his bachelor’s and master’s from William Paterson University. He is currently taking classes toward his doctorate, serving as an adjunct professor of nursing at WP, and working full-time as the nurse manager of a hospital’s cardiothoracic intensive care unit—which has recently been converted into a COVID-19 ICU.
What’s the best thing you have witnessed at work in the hospital recently?
Along with the deep, heartfelt camaraderie between nurses, doctors, and every other department in the hospital, Fajardo says community support—in the form of letters of encouragement and food donations— has been amazing. Most moving, though, are the patient recovery stories.
“Recently we had a patient transferred out who was with us for quite some time on a ventilator. He was successfully weaned off the vent and eventually transferred out to the medical/surgical floor. Yesterday, we received a FaceTime call from this patient from home! He was doing so much better. He called to thank all of the staff for taking such great care of him and everyone cried tears of happiness and joy to see him well at home. This simple FaceTime call gave the nurses the enrichment that they need—it gave them hope that we will get through this and that their hard work pays off,” Fajardo says.
How has your job changed since the pandemic?
“One important aspect of my job that has very much come to light is building up morale and watching out for my nurses. Ensuring the they are not only safe, but also kept in a positive state of mind—celebrating all the wins when we successfully transfer a patient—but also holding their hands, allowing them to express their fear, anxiety, anger and concerns in healthy and creative ways has been one of the most interesting changes in my role. I’m not saying that it is something new, but it’s just never had to be to this scale.”
What’s been the hardest part about your job during this situation?
“The hardest part of my job has been trying to keep up morale and being able to provide the moral support that is needed, when I myself am experiencing the same feelings,” Fajardo says.
“These patients are sick—and I mean very sick and very critical. It is really something that we have never seen before. There are days we lose quite a few patients and it tears through the whole team. I try my best to be the ray of hope and to allow the nurses to grieve and express their anxieties in creative ways.”
Fajardo I created a wall layered with dry-erase wall paper, and encourages the staff to write their frustrations, hopes, and encouraging messages there.
He also reached out to every single staff member's immediately family members to request that they send a card, picture, or message for the nurses and doctors. “Many of them are also dealing with being away from their families due to fear of exposing them,” Fajardo explains. “It is important to me that the nurses understand that I am also thinking of those who are important to them.”
“It is also important to recognize that before being nurses, doctors, nursing assistants, environmental aids, and so on, the people working closely with the COVID-19 patients are human beings,” he adds. “They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives.”
How are you balancing your roles as professor and nurse right now?
“I am currently working 12- to 16-hour days and have been working with no days off for 30 days today. Managing teaching the course has been a very diligent effort to plan ahead and pretty much stick to my schedule,” says Fajardo, who is teaching Leadership Seminar this semester, a senior-level nursing course.
“To be quite honest, the hours I spend teaching once a week, and the time I set aside to grade and do the work required for teaching, provides an escape for me and has really been a blessing through this pandemic—to be able to have those set times to just focus on the material being taught, interact and teach the students. It is a nice change of pace,” Fajardo says.
“Talking to the students and seeing how eager they are to learn and to complete their degrees is inspiring among all this craziness. They are so motivated and ready to be nurses and join the workforce although it is a scary place to be,” Fajardo says. “I am in awe of the dedication of these students; it gives me a lot of hope for the future of our profession and really speaks to the success and quality of the William Paterson University program.”
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