When the global outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, medical professionals around the world were quickly and rightfully deemed essential frontline workers. These healthcare heroes -- including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and more -- continue fighting to this day, working around the clock to help save lives and slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
One such health hero is Valerie Molnar '15, a former Elmwood student who now works as a registered nurse (RN) in St. Louis, Missouri.
Valerie, who graduated from Elmwood in 2015, is currently a night shift RN in a trauma unit. There, she supports patients who have experienced traumatic injuries such as gunshot wounds, stab wounds, traumatic falls, and motor vehicle accidents.
With the onset of the virus, however, her unit was quickly converted into one that cared exclusively for patients with COVID-19. The next few months were filled with uncertainty, as she and her colleagues dealt with the ever-evolving pandemic; rapidly changing protocols around PPE, and the fear of falling ill themselves.
“As a young RN in America, the COVID-19 crisis was a totally unexpected challenge,” she says. “These last few months have been some of the most stressful, exhausting, and terrifying of my life.’
But while this experience has been overwhelming at times, Valerie continually approaches each day with a brave face—a trait she credits to her time spent at Elmwood.
“Elmwood inspired me to be an engaged and curious person who isn’t afraid to take on new challenges,” she says. “Most importantly, Elmwood taught me to seek balance in all that I do... It is this balance that helps me be a good nurse to my patients, an engaged member of my community, and a happy person.”
It was also at Elmwood that Valerie first decided to pursue a career in nursing—and she has former Director of Academic Counselling, Ms. Donna Naufal Moffatt, to thank for that.
“At Elmwood, you are presented with endless opportunities to explore and discover,” says Valerie. “As I started to look towards my university career, I was encouraged by Ms. Moffatt to truly think about my passions in life, and to open my mind to all sorts of degrees and options.”
It was through this process that Valerie ultimately landed on the field of nursing, having discovered that, more than anything, she wanted to pursue a career that was active and dynamic, where she could learn and grow every day while connecting with people in a meaningful way.
“All these criteria led me to nursing,” she says.
After graduating from Elmwood, Valerie set her sights on St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. There, she completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing before writing the NCLEX, an exam that grants nurses the ability to work anywhere in the United States and Canada.
After receiving numerous job offers from hospitals in both countries, Valerie made the bold decision to move to St. Louis, where she has continued to work and thrive ever since.
“I don’t think at 18 years old one truly ever knows exactly what they want out of a career,” she says. “I was encouraged to take a leap, try something exciting, and see if I liked it. Luckily enough, I fell in love with nursing and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
As the number of COVID cases in the U.S. slowly declines, some degree of normalcy is now being restored— including in Valerie’s department, which recently transitioned back to a trauma unit. And though the challenges of the pandemic have, at times, seemed endless, Valerie has also witnessed incredible acts of service throughout these past few months.
“For each and every challenge and hardship we overcame, there were a million acts of kindness and compassion, small and large, that made a world of difference in our days,” she says. This support came from local Girl Scout troops -- who made cards and posters for hospital staff -- as well as from members of the community, who sent in handmade hair covers and ear-savers; donated PPE; and even offered to bring groceries to those in quarantine.
“We were blessed with support from people all over St. Louis and Missouri,” notes Valerie. “Kindness was all around.”