Two Queens nurses share their insight on providing critical care during COVID-19 pandemic

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Oksana Galivova, clinical nurse manager, Med/Surg Unit Jamaica Hospital, and John Hartin, a nurse at Flushing Hospital. (Photos are courtesy of Galivova and Hartin)

When Oksana Galibova isn’t at Jamaica Hospital taking care of sick patients and leading her team of nurses to provide the best quality care, she dedicates her time and love to her family who gave her support throughout her career as a nurse, keeping her strong and motivated. 

Galibova, who immigrated from Russia to the U.S. in 1995 and resides in Rego Park, comes from a family with a broad history of healthcare professionals in the medical field who inspired her to become a nurse, she said. 

“When I was a little girl, I remember sitting at a dinner table and listening to them talk about patients they have seen and the impact they had on them for them to get better,” said Galibova, a clinical nurse manager for the medical-surgical unit at Jamaica Hospital. 

Galivova started her nursing career in Russia and when she came to the U.S., she attended the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing at Hunter College, where she obtained a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree in nursing. She joined Jamaica Hospital in 2000 working in the telemetry unit as a staff nurse and was then promoted to assistant head nurse, where her passion became stronger in mentoring and teaching new nurses. In 2010, Galibova was promoted to clinical nurse manager of the medical-surgical unit. 

“This has been an amazing experience to be a role model for newly hired nursing staff to be at a patient’s bedside,” Galibova said. “I love to advocate, comfort them, and to make sure they get the best quality care. When I see my nurses doing the best job ever, and coming to me saying, ‘I learned this from you’ or ‘This is the best experience working with you Oksana’ that makes me very happy.’” 

Galibova has always loved helping and taking care of people, especially when they’re sick, she said. In her 21-year career as a nurse, she strives to go above and beyond in her profession caring for patients the way she would want her family members to be cared for. 

“When patients go home and they look at your eyes and say ‘thank you’ when they get better, and when their families are reaching out to you and sending cards, I feel like my job has been accomplished when I see those things,” Galibova said. 

Galibova is honored to lead a team of nurses, she said, admiring their sacrifices each and every day, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed the face of her career. 

As one of her patients was deteriorating from the coronavirus, Galibova recalled speaking to his mother over the phone providing updates, but unfortunately, he did not make it, she said. 

“One of the hardest things was to speak to his mom after he died. This was one of the most difficult times when families weren’t able to be at the patient’s bedside and see what they’re going through,” Galibova said. 

As Galibova reflects on the past year that was filled with challenges, heartache and lost lives, she remains hopeful that that pandemic will be over one day. 

“Everyday I come to work and I see our census is dropping — we have 39 bed units and 11 patients are in the ward,” Galibova said. “It makes me feel so good and hopeful that we are discharging them, and educating them about proper hygiene and making sure they go home with oxygen, if needed.” 

Like Galibova, John Hartin, a nurse at Flushing Hospital for the past 34 and a half years, expressed appreciation for his team helping to save lives during the pandemic that ravaged the borough. 

“I was never sick, thank God. I still think back and say to my coworkers, considering what we worked through, we survived,” Hartin said. “If it weren’t for teamwork, we might not have been where we are today.” 

A Queens native, Hartin was born and raised in Bellerose. He began working as a nurses aide in the critical care unit (ICU) at the former Deepdale Hospital in Little Neck, before he attended Queensborough Community College and obtained an associates degree in nursing. 

“Nursing has always been a great career for me. There are so many avenues you can work in and I love it,” said Hartin, whose wife and daughter are also medical professionals. “I would never discourage anyone from not going into it. If you like taking care of people and meeting people, that’s the way to go.”

Upon graduating from QCC, Hartin continued working in the ICU taking on Flushing Hospital’s critical care patients  — whether they came from the emergency room or floor. 

“We’ve seen it all the time, especially with COVID. You can be talking to someone at one minute, and the next minute they are in a different place, unstable,” Hartin said. “People do well, and, sometimes, they don’t do well.” 

At the height of the pandemic, Hartin and his team didn’t know what they were dealing with, he said. 

“A lot of the times we didn’t get breaks — there was no leaving the bedside. People were just so sick, and patient care comes first,” Hartin said.  

According to Hartin, there are both good and bad outcomes in the ER. While caring for a coronavirus patient on a respirator, Hartin held her hand, reassuring her they will do everything they can. 

“I came back a few days later and she was gone,” Hartin said. “I took care of a lot of COVID patients — both young and old — holding hands and making eye contact, and days later they’re gone. COVID was sad and it was a very vulnerable disease,” Hartin said. 

Looking ahead, as people continue to get vaccinated pushing back against the virus, Hartin said people still need to be smart and safe, especially if they’re going through a crowded area. 

“We were on the front lines, but you also had the fire department and police department, everyone who came in contact with the public and played a role,” Hartin said. “Everyone was able to step up and get where we are today.” 

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