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JNESO—the voice of healthcare professionals.
Lots of children dream of becoming a nurse or doctor, but for Pam Tavarone of West Milford, N.J. and her older brother that dream became a reality.
“I used to give shots to my dolls,” she laughed. “My older brother (who became a surgeon) and I did a lot things together as kids. He would make me read out of his advanced bio books and we even dissected the pet fish that died. I was his nurse and he was the surgeon. I always wanted to be a nurse, I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.”
Tavarone found her calling as an Intensive Care Nurse and has worked at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic, N.J. for the past 20 years.
“I absolutely love working in the ICU,” said Tavarone. “You have much more time to spend with each patient and you can see and feel the difference you make from the beginning to the end of your shift. You also have more opportunity to spend time with the families, and when someone is critical you are able to support them better and give them hope, or help them say goodbye the right way.”
Nursing is extremely hard work, physically and emotionally, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges for Tavarone. “There are connections you make with certain patients, and they will say something to you that makes you realize that you made a real difference to them. You feel like WOW, this is where I am supposed to be, I needed to be there for that person right now.”
In addition to caring for her patients, Tavarone also supports her fellow nurses as president of the local JNESO union chapter at St. Mary’s.
“It is not just dealing with managers, it is about working side-by-side and making sure we all get the same benefits and same treatment. JNESO makes sure we are protected and it feels like somebody always has your back,” she explained. “When you have that camaraderie you work better together and it strengthens you.”
This solidarity and support has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tavarone and her colleagues continue to struggle with an influx of critical patients, 12 hour shifts with little to no time for breaks, and a severe lack of appropriate personal protective equipment.
Tavarone spoke out, not only to management but to the media about nurses wearing garbage bags over paper thin gowns, the lack of N95 masks, and how she chose to wear a Tyvek painters suit and a contractor grade respirator to try and protect herself. Unfortunately, it didn’t prevent her from testing positive for COVID-19.
She is on the road to recovery but amazingly, even getting sick hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for being nurse.
“Nurses really need to band together and realize that there is strength in numbers. We can make a difference in the world but we need to be there for each other and speak up for each other,” she remarked.
“I will go back to work, they need the help. Hopefully now I will be immune and be able to work a bit more without being fearful.” She added. “I really love my job, and love what I do.”