“When they grow up, I want them to know that I went. I made the choice to go.”

Luke Adams didn’t wait around to volunteer in New York. He explains that, when the coronavirus pandemic first started, he recognized the need that New York hospitals would have. 

“I was one of the ones who got that first. It wasn’t as grave of a need yet.”

Because he already had an active New York nursing license, Adams was among the first wave of relief workers to come to New York City. He drove right over from his home of Bloomsburg, PA, initially sleeping in his car on a baby mattress before later being given a hotel room. Adams describes a strong sense of duty in his desire to volunteer. As he explains, 

“I’m 35 years old. I’ve now lived through a couple things in my life.” 

He recalls the 9-11 terrorist attack: “I remember exactly where I was, how I felt.” 

Adams was 16 when the Twin Towers went down, and he recalls the stories of the bravery of the first responders, the firefighters and policemen, that day:  “They were all normal guys, not heroes, just individuals put in a situation and who did the right thing. This time, nurses are the ones who are needed. I want to follow in the steps of those guys who I had seen when I was younger.” 

Adams also notes and welcomes the feeling of unity that we have today, just as we did after September 11th: “The things that normally divide us—they all disappeared and when you got to the bottom of it, there was something very American.”

Adams has two young children that he left back at home in Bloomsburg. Part of his motivation to come was that he wanted to set a good example for his children, to show them that there are times when you have to put the greater good ahead of yourself.

“When they grow up, I want them to know that I went. I made the choice to go.”

Now, Adams is deep in the trenches caring for COVID-19 patients. Arriving on March 23rd, he’s signed up for a 13-week assignment, meaning he’ll be working in New York until mid-June. He works 12.5-hour shifts that sometimes extend to 16 hours.

As a critical care nurse, Adams is juggling overseeing care for many more patients than he usually would. In an intensive care unit, a nurse typically would only be assigned to one or two patients. Now he’s working with a team as the only nurse with critical care expertise to care for as many as 16 patients. 

His team also includes a couple of residents, three or four medical-surgical nurses, and a respiratory therapist. Because the other nurses aren’t comfortable with some of the critical care elements for the coronavirus patients, Adams provides support for all of the patients. 

Adams is a great proponent of removing licensing hurdles. He says that “we all take the same standardized test to become nurses.” So why have different licenses for different states? 

There is a licensure pact to go between some states but not all 50 states are in this pact. The membership has now grown to 34 states but neither Pennsylvania nor New York are part of the pact. But during this crisis, New York has temporarily loosened their licensing requirements to allow relief nurses to practice more quickly in the state. 

Between his shifts at the hospital, Adams works to recruit more nurses to provide relief in New York. He says that many nurses were delayed in coming because they had to work through a contracted agency to receive an assignment. He’d like to see a way for someone to be able to get in their car, drive over and get their feet on the ground. Because a few days is a lifetime in a crisis. 

Finally, Adams emphasized that what he and other health professionals are doing isn’t stopping coronavirus, “we’re dealing with the effects of coronavirus.” He says that people need to know that they’re the ones stopping the coronavirus through social distancing. 

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