When she received her nursing degree, Bailey Dammen didn’t ever expect to end up treating patients in one of the major hotspots of a global pandemic.
But that is exactly where she is today.
Dammen is a 2013 Denison High School graduate. She is the daughter of Dane Dammen and Jennifer Kitt.
Dammen received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of South Dakota in 2017.
Today she is treating COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Manhattan, New York.
“The floor I’m working on is primarily a transplant floor in a normal year, but right now they split the floor,” Dammen said. “Half are transplant patients that don’t have COVID and the other half are transplant patients that do have COVID.”
The hospital where she works is actually two combined hospitals.
“The side of the hospital I’m in is brand new. All the rooms are negative pressure rooms and it has been primarily turned into a COVID hospital,” she said.
Dammen works four 12-hour shifts at the hospital each week.
The floor where she works has a total of 32 beds; her wing has beds for 18 COVID-19 patients.
“It has been pretty much full with COVID patients since I’ve been here,” Dammen said. “I’m on the 18th floor and all the floors below me are COVID floors.”
Many of the hospital’s medical floors that don’t normally take critical patients have been turned into intensive care units (ICUs) to treat COVID-19 patients.
“I’m not in the ICU, so I’m not seeing the critically acute patients,” Dammen said. “The patients on my floor are immunocompromised patients that have COVID and are doing fairly well. It’s been a good experience to see people with COVID, people that are already sick, who are still doing okay.”
Many patients from the unit where she works have been discharged after getting better, she said.
Dammen noted that her unit is a less-critical unit compared to other units at the hospital.
“There are still a lot of patients who aren’t doing well from this,” she said. “I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of COVID and the impact it’s having on the community.”
Dammen has only been in New York for three weeks.
She did not make the trip to Manhattan alone. Her fiancé, Aaron Spicer, who is also a nurse, made the journey with her.
Dammen met Spicer when they were both working their first jobs as nurses at a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Spicer is an ER nurse and is originally from New Hampshire.
Dammen and Spicer moved to Vermont together and took jobs at a hospital there before taking seasonal contracts in Arizona last year.
“Our contract was coming to an end and we kept getting emails about the need for so many nurses,” Dammen said. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to help out. I was excited to go to a place that really needs the help right now and is overwhelmed with patients with COVID.”
They both had eight-week contracts set up for work in New York, but Spicer’s was canceled after they arrived.
“The hospitals here ended up over-hiring nurses,” Dammen said. “They canceled contracts for 70 ER nurses.”
She said the Manhattan hospital where she works is well equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).
“I was a little bit nervous coming out here because at the hospital where I was in Arizona they were getting worried about their PPE,” Dammen said. “They were being very cautious about how much they were using and how much they were giving out and who they were giving it to.”
She was pleasantly surprised to find that the Manhattan hospital has a good supply of PPE.
“We have the face shields, we have the face masks, we have the gowns, and we have hair nets,” she said. “They have pretty much supplied us with everything we need.”
Personnel at the hospital are asked not to be wasteful of PPE, but they are not expected to wear the same mask for a month, she said.
On days when Dammen is not working at the hospital, she and Spicer spend a lot of time biking.
“It’s a good way to get outside but not be hanging out by everybody else,” she said.
They have to rent bikes due to an incident that happened on their way from Arizona to New York.
“We were driving out with my truck and it had a 20-foot enclosed trailer that was full of everything we owned,” Dammen said. “We drove for about nine hours the first day on our way to New York. We were on our way to his cousin’s house in Philly where we could park it and leave it there and then go up to New York.”
At about 1 a.m. on the first day of their trip they decided to get some sleep at a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“We parked my truck in the parking lot at the hotel, locked it and went inside and went to bed about 2 a.m.,” she said. “When we woke up, somebody had stolen our truck and trailer with everything in it.”
“It was a really crazy start to this whole thing,” she said.
After talking to the local police, they rented a car for the day and then bought tickets for a flight to Philadelphia.
“We haven’t heard anything about our truck or trailer since,” Dammen said.
Dammen’s contract with the Manhattan hospital will be finished at the end of May.
“After New York our plans are to go back to New Hampshire,” Dammen said. “It’s kind of our home base.”
She and Spicer don’t have a wedding date, yet.
“A bunch of things came up, one after the other, after we got engaged,” Dammen said. “When we thought about setting a date, then all this stuff started happening and we decided to wait until this gets toward its end and then plan from there.”
She said she is glad she took the contract to work in New York.
“It’s been interesting to be in New York during this time and see everyone come together to help each other out,” she said. “It’s good to see everyone step up and be so giving. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming since we’ve been here.”
The owner of the Airbnb where they are staying has let them extend their stay as needed.
She said New York residents have donated food and other supplies to workers at her hospital.
“The people of New York have been incredible,” Dammen said. “It has been a great experience.”