“I’ve never felt so much that I’m exactly where I need to be right now. I’m making a difference.”

Clare Shanley is one of those people who believes in cosmic signs.

Shanley, who is a nurse, was working in Richmond, Virginia, when she first heard about the need for nurses in New York.

“I kept thinking about these New York hospitals where these doctors and nurses went into work every day for their normal jobs and how this happened so fast,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine that here in Richmond with my work family and how to deal with it without any outside help.”

Shanley didn’t hesitate and filled out an application to volunteer as a travel nurse in New York. Within a matter of days, she was accepted and everything lined up perfectly.

Shanley is working 12-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in an intensive care unit at a Bronx hospital.

When I asked her what it’s been like so far, she paused. It’s been harder than expected, she admitted.

“You see a lot of deaths,” Shanely said. “That part isn’t new to me, but for the most part when I treat a patient in the ER, I’m only taking care of them for a few hours at most. Coming here, we treat patients for 3, 4, or 5 days at a time. So when I lose a patient, it feels a lot more personal.”

Shanley described helping patients FaceTime their family members. “You get to know them,” she said. “So losing them only becomes that much harder.”

Shanley, and other volunteers like her, typically wouldn’t be allowed to practice nursing in New York without first transferring their licenses, which can take many months. But New York and over a dozen other states recently eased licensing regulations out of a dire need for more skilled hands. That means any nurse with a valid license from any state need only apply to volunteer.

To sign up, Shanley provided her active Virginia nursing license and immunization records.

For all of the death and despair, Shanely doesn’t sound downtrodden. Far from it in fact. She’s hopeful. She says that she’s never felt so important in her entire life.

“I feel like every day I go to work, and I have this purpose. I’ve never felt so much that I’m exactly where I need to be right now. I’m making a difference.”

Shanley will be in New York until May 15, and after that will reassess what to do. She plans to go wherever she’s needed, even if that means heading back to her home hospital in Richmond. But she hopes that won’t be necessary.

When she’s called a hero, Shanley pushes back. She doesn’t think of herself that way.

“No one came here to be a hero,” she said. “At least for myself, it just felt like I have the skill set that’s needed. This is what I am trained for.”

“I just want to help.”

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