Peter Liets: Nursing New Yorkers Back to Health

No one can argue that COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. It’s brought out the best in some of our best people: the healthcare workers struggling to treat those who have contracted the virus. It has changed them, too, in many ways. Peter Liets is one of those frontline nurses who knows all too well what life is like during this devastating pandemic.

Liets, an April 2019 BSN graduate from Brookline College in Phoenix, had been working in a cardiac/surgical progressive care unit at Banner Desert. When COVID-19 hit, things changed. “I am working for a staffing agency that is bringing nurses to help fight this pandemic [in New York],” Liets says. “I am working with sometimes limited supplies and ensuring that my patients are getting the best care possible. There are a lot of people affected by this right now, so it is important to be adaptive and inventive.”

Brookline College’s nursing program helped Liets prepare for his current duties by giving him the educational foundation needed in nursing to give expert care to patients in any kind of situation. “Brookline also helped keep me flexible and to know that nursing and anything can change and to embrace that and learn to grow from any change that comes my way,” he says.

It’s doubtful that Liets thought “any kind of situation” would be the one he’s facing now, with cases of COVID-19 still rising at any alarming rate. In addition to caring for patients in a clinical sense, there’s more to it—especially on an emotional level. “The toughest part is just remembering that even if you’re nervous, the patients are the ones who are more nervous, and they need a level-headed nurse who is making them feel safe and comfortable,” he says. It’s important to ease their anxiety. “They are sick with a new, dangerous virus, and they don’t even have family at their bedside; they need all the love and support they can get.”

In addition to the fear of the unknown regarding COVID and having to stay strong for themselves and their patients, nurses like Peter Liets worry about those who don’t have the virus—yet. “I worry that people are going to assume they can’t be affected by this, and they may be lucky and be asymptomatic,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean when they throw caution to the wind, they won’t infect a loved one, a friend or a random stranger who has a family that loves them.”

Liets says there are some things the rest of us can do to help him and his fellow healthcare workers. “WASH YOUR HANDS (20-30 seconds),” he urges. “Be respectful of others and try to remember that everyone is stressed about this; courtesy to others can make a difference. Take care of yourselves so you don’t end up visiting us in the hospital.”

Being a nurse can be stressful—even in normal times—but now, more than ever, it is important that nurses stay strong and take care of themselves. Liets’s method? “I talk with my wife every night, and she encourages and supports me,” he says. “I also like to do some push-ups or yoga at night to help release any stress from the day.”

One day, COVID-19 will be contained and its threat lessened. When that day comes, Liets says, “I will be spending all my time with my family outside at the park, letting my kids far as far as they can, and I will be back to work at Banner Desert.”

He and the rest of us will be back to a more “normal” routine when the pandemic runs its course, but we may not be quite the same: we may see things from a different perspective. “I I am more aware of things that I touch and how quickly things can get dirty,” Liets says. “I am also more appreciative of my amazing wife who is doing an amazing job back at home taking care of our children all by herself.”

Still, Peter Liets wouldn’t have it any other way. For anyone considering a career in nursing, he says, “Remember how great it feels to help others and be ready for anything.”

Are you interested in pursuing a nursing career? Take a look at Brookline College’s comprehensive nursing programs.