After a surge in COVID-19 cases around the holidays in Brooklyn, and across the Big Apple, the illness is beginning to trend downward thanks to the help of some committed first responders — including one healthcare professional who has been getting up close and personal with patients since the onset of the pandemic.
Veronika Orlova, assistant director of nursing at NYC Health and Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health, has been working with highly infected COVID patients since the biggest surge in cases in 2020. Today, she uses the skills she learned during the darkest days of the pandemic — like teamwork, mental preservation and perseverance — to inspire her work within the southern Brooklyn hospital.
As cases first started to rise, Orlova found out she was pregnant at the age of 41, making her pregnancy “high-risk.” This was almost enough to make her leave the healthcare field, but she decided to rely on her team and her faith to get through.
“It was so important for me to have this baby and [for the baby to] be delivered safely,” she said. “I decided to stay in the unit because a lot of people were getting sick. I told myself that if God gave me this gift, he was going to protect me.”
Orlova admitted that working on some of the most emotionally and physically demanding cases has left a mark on her. She says that she and her husband, who also worked as a nurse during the pandemic, often have to take time to recover mentally.
“During that time I realized how important teamwork is. I was with my team on the unit all the time and they were looking at me and I guess they were saying if she can do it, we can do it also,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “We got over that difficult time by working together.”
Those “hard times” have continued to define her work ethic and commitment to her team, Orlova said. She often draws back on her experience to connect with patients and lead her team with confidence.
“My experience during that time is what made me the person I am today,” she said. “I don’t feel like I am special or anything. It’s just a part of my job.”
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, more healthcare workers experience burnout, poor mental health days or have intentions to leave their jobs since the pandemic. The CDC says 46% of health professionals experienced burnout in 2022 — up from 32% in 2018. The field has also seen more employee turnover since 2020.
Those numbers are beginning to decrease for Brooklyn with a reported 479 cases as of Jan.15.