Graduates Help Create COVID-19 Unit for Veterans’ Hospital

Med/Surg front line staff: (front row from left) Elizabeth Moy, B.S.N. Class of 2019, RN; Danielle Cruz, B.S.N., Class of 2015, RN; Monique Reyes-Lester, B.S.N. Class of 2015, RN; Sandra Perez, B.S.N. Class of 2017, RN; Megan Taylor, B.S.N. Class of 2015, RN; Frank Soileau, B.S.N. Class of 2009, RN; (middle row from left) Darla Martinelli, M.S.N. Class of 2003, RN; Marisa Patterson, B.S.N. Class of 2006, RN; Autumn Powers, B.S.N. Class of 2019, RN; Brigitte Johnson, B.S.N. Class of 1996, RN; Maribel Fajardo-Garcia, B.S.N. Class of 2019, RN; Claudia Orozco, B.S.N. Class of 2018, RN; Sarah Brown, B.S.N. Class of 2018, RN, and Charmaine Mainor, M.S.N., B.S.N. Class of 2004, RN; (back row from left) Jennifer Andrade, B.S.N. Class of 2012, RN; Bianca Reyna, B.S.N. Class of 2019, RN; Ryan Salazar, B.S.N. Class of 2019, RN; Ernest Chapko, B.S.N. Class of 2013, RN; Thomas Johnson, B.S.N. Class of 2014, RN; Joni Hibberd, B.S.N. Class of 1996, RN; Alma Garcia, M.S.N. Class of 2019, B.S.N. Class of 2016, RN, and Kristine Coronado, M.S.N. Class of 2003, RN.

Graduates of UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing demonstrated their ability to respond to changing health care needs during a worldwide pandemic while always keeping quality patient care as their priority.

Charmaine Mainor, M.S.N., B.S.N. Class of 2004, RN, chief nurse for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, oversees the Medical Surgical, Acute Care and Hemodialysis units at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in San Antonio. Mainor and 11 fellow nursing school graduates transformed Med Surg Unit 5A into a designated COVID-positive unit.

Med/Surg leadership includes from left: Marisa Patterson, B.S.N. Class of 2006, RN; Darla Martinelli, M.S.N. Class of 2003, RN; Ernest Chapko, B.S.N. Class of 2013, RN; Charmaine Mainor, M.S.N., B.S.N. Class of 2004, RN; Kristine Coronado, M.S.N., B.S.N. Class of 2003, RN; and Laura Martinez, B.S.N. Class of 2017, RN.

“These nurses were instrumental in designing the unit. We had three weeks to prepare and practice. The front-line input determined what nurse practice would look like in a COVID unit while following CDC guidelines,” she said.

Unlike other parts of the country, such as New York, San Antonio had time to prepare, Mainor said. “Our nurses were able to create new procedures such as giving reports at shift change and transporting lab specimens. After we started receiving patients, these processes morphed along the way. We gave the nurses the flexibility to adapt.”

The alumni had to problem solve and be creative in helping their patients who are completely isolated from family members and friends. “One patient came from a nursing home where he was used to a lot of socialization. Our nurses recognized that he was sad and coordinated video visits with his family. They also set up a non-recording camera in the room to give the patient the ability to interact and visit with the staff and allowed the staff to visualize and communicate with the patient. This gave the patient the human connection he was missing.”

These nurses showed real ingenuity while following procedure and safety protocols, she said. “It is always a joy to work with UT Health nursing students and graduates. They have such an inspiring spirit. All our Med Surg Units are Dedicated Education Units with the school. Having the students there has transformed our health care system. They breathe fresh air and fresh ideas into the unit,” Mainor added.

Nurse Executive Valerie Rodriguez-Yu, M.S.N., B.S.N. Class of 2001, RN, NEA-BC, with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, said alumni from UT Health have been on the forefront of the pandemic battle.

“I have been impressed with these graduates. They have been so innovative coming up with ways to mitigate concerns with personal protective equipment,” she said. “They are flexible and dedicated to serving our community. These graduates are clinically strong and are prepared to be nurse leaders.”

Rodriguez-Yu said she is very grateful for the relationship the VA has with the School of Nursing.

“Everyone has benefited from us being in this battle together.”


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In the 2020 issue of Tribute

Tribute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2020 issue

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