Local nurses say working on the frontlines has refueled their passion

CHARLOTTE — Nurses at Atrium Health spoke to Channel 9 Thursday about what it's like working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, telling reporter Tina Terry it has refueled their passion for service.

“This has really tested me. It has given me a sense of renewal, a sense of strength to continue to move forward,” said nurse Cesar Aviles.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

The nurses said they never imagined they’d witness a global pandemic but that their colleagues and the Atrium Health system have stepped up to the plate to care for the community.

They told Channel 9 that preparation and a well executed plan by Atrium Health helped them respond and prevent staffing shortages across the state.

Maureen Swick, a veteran nurse, said the pandemic reminds her of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s. Like then, they've had to deal with elevated fears and stigmas, but she believes the hospital and its nurses have managed well.

“Especially with the fear people had, not knowing about the disease ... the need for PPE, some of it was Déjà vu, but this is so much different,” she said.

As North Carolina eyes Phase 1 of reopening at the end of the week, the nurses said they are not letting their guard down.

>> We’ll bring you LIVE updates on Channel 9 Eyewitness News. Get extended coverage on the free WSOC Now app on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

They’re preparing for a surge in cases that could come with businesses opening and more people crossing paths with one another.

“We have a very large resource pool, close to 700 clinically trained staff that we move across the system,” Swick said. “In addition, we still are recruiting. We still have frontline staff. We are not slowing down.”

They are also continuing orientations and hiring practices so they can be well prepared if there is a surge of new cases as the state reopens.