School of Nursing Steps Up to Staff South Jersey COVID-19 Hospital

By Sam Starnes

When Kevin Emmons, an associate clinical professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, was tapped to be the chief nursing officer for the field medical site set up in Atlantic City to handle an overflow of coronavirus patients from hospitals, he knew exactly where to turn to recruit nurses. He put out a call that brought in eight Rutgers–Camden nursing alumni, three nursing faculty members, and a graduate student in social work to join the field hospital staff. “Everyone worked as a team and chipped in and served South Jersey,” said Emmons, who is a 2004 graduate of the School of Nursing–Camden. “This was a call to serve the state, and a lot of Rutgers–Camden nurses stepped up to do the job.”

The 250-bed hospital, one of three in the state set up by the New Jersey Department of Health and coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense, opened during the pandemic in late April and was in operation through early July. Margo Wallace SNC’08, director of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden’s Center for Academic Resources, Engagement, and Services (CARES), served as nighttime nursing supervisor at the field hospital. “Everyone coming together to care for these patients was a very bonding experience,” Wallace said. “It really restored my faith in humanity that so many people were willing to take care of others in the worst of times.”

Emmons and Wallace said setting up the field hospital quickly in the early days of the pandemic in April was an enormous task. Ultimately, the hospital was far from reaching capacity, serving almost 50 patients with COVID-19. In the uncertainty of the first months of the pandemic when it appeared hospitals would be overwhelmed, being prepared for the worst was critical, Emmons said. “We were ready,” said Emmons, a U.S. Army veteran who has worked in combat field hospitals in Iraq. “It’s better to set up for what could potentially have happened and be prepared then to not be prepared at all.”

Pictured above, from left to right, at the Atlantic City field hospital, are Kevin Emmons SNC’04; Margo Wallace SNC’08; Joseph Cipriano CCAS’06, SNC’15, ’17; Laris Brkic SNC’18, and Virginia Girard, a clinical instructor. Field hospital staff from Rutgers–Camden who are not pictured include Valerie Caraballo, clinical nursing instructor; Stacy Carter SNC’19; Daniel Van Fossen SNC’18; Brianna Flournoy SNC’19; Latisha Hayes CCAS’08, SNC’19; Regina Mangano SNC’17; and Khadijah Muhammad, a graduate student in the School of Social Work.

Posted in: 2020 Fall, On Campus

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