A checkup with an Abington RN to B.S.N. student in the time of coronavirus

ABINGTON, Pa. — Heather McFadyen knew since high school that she wanted to work in healthcare. She accomplished that goal, now working as a registered nurse at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia while pursuing her bachelor of science in nursing at Penn State Abington. And with the onset of the coronavirus, McFadyen’s nursing skills and fortitude have been called upon like never before in the fight to help save lives.

Abington nursing student

Heather McFadyen is enrolled in the Penn State Abington RN to B.S.N. program while working full time at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital in Philadelphia.

Credit: Heather McFadyen

After a long day at the hospital, McFadyen wipes down touchpoints on the interior and exterior of her car before setting foot into her house. She forgoes the front door, entering from the garage so that she can immediately deposit her clothes in the washer. Then, after her shoes and bag are disinfected, she wipes down her work ID and anything else that was in her pockets.

“At night,” she said, “I simply say good night and tell my boys I love them. I stopped hugging them before bed.”

McFadyen was one of the first nurses on her floor to volunteer to care for coronavirus patients. Since the pandemic began, she has picked up more overtime hours and played an even greater role in patient care.

“My responsibilities at work have increased because we found ourselves having to be respiratory therapists, dietary, and housekeeping in addition to nurses,” she said. “We have become the only human interactions for our patients, yet we are told to limit our time in the patients' rooms.”

McFadyen said she believes that nurses have proven themselves during this challenging time.

“Doctors have learned to trust our judgment on patients more than previously. I also noticed more doctors showing respect for the nursing profession through this pandemic,” she said.

"This program has taught me to become a leader."

—Heather McFadyen, RN to B.S.N. student at Penn State Abington

This intense time can have an emotional impact on nurses, said McFadyen. She acknowledged that many of her COVID-19 patients will always stay with her and that she will need some time to mourn the patients and friends who did not survive.

“Nurses are not good at self-care,” she noted. “This is the time to make our self-care a priority. You have to find an outlet for your fear or frustration, utilize the resources that are out there.”

McFadyen reached out to a trusted colleague for help in dealing with her emotions. Now, per her colleague’s recommendation, McFadyen uses journalling to help process the challenges she faces each day. 

Approaching her three-year anniversary in the profession, she said she still considers herself a new nurse but has learned to trust her nursing judgement.

“I feel my skills are stronger having been on a COVID-positive floor,” she said.

McFadyen credits the Penn State RN to B.S.N. program with giving her added confidence and leadership skills.

“I have learned to trust what I know and ask for help. This program has taught me to become a leader, as I feel comfortable helping newer nurses on the floor I work on,” she said. “As a colleague put it, ‘Someday, we will be the ones teaching nurses what it was like to work through the pandemic.’”

About the College of Nursing’s RN to B.S.N. Program at Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington's RN to B.S.N. program combines in-class and online instruction, accelerated seven-week sessions, flexible schedules, and evening classes to accommodate the schedules of busy RNs. To apply to the program, you must have an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and possess, or are scheduled to test for, your RN license. Learn more about the program and how your credits transfer by visiting: abington.psu.edu/rn-bsn.

About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.