TAMPA, Fla. — Last year nurses from around the country were deployed to hospitals in New York and New Jersey to help care for patients with COVID-19.
Those nurses may have returned home, but for many of them, the fight against COVID continues every day.
Before Alexandra Houston was wearing scrubs for the Moffit Cancer Center, she was wearing fatigues for the United States Military, serving in Iraq as an army medic.
“It was intense, it changed you as a person I think, and I was young, so I had to grow up pretty fast,” said Houston.
Houston thought it would be the most challenging mission of her life, until the phone rang a decade later, asking the reservist to deploy to New Jersey for a whole different kind of war against COVID-19.
“I was scared but I was also excited because I knew they needed a lot of help,” said Houston.
The outpouring of support for Houston and her fellow army medics was overwhelming.
“They were so understaffed, the nurses kept crying, they just kept thanking us the entire time we were there,” said Houston.
Over the next four months, Houston took on a leadership role and oversaw more than 30 other nurses at University Hospital.
“Just constant sadness and there was really no reprieve at that point during COVID so that was probably the most challenging part,” said Houston.
When Houston returned to Tampa she had plenty of career options but like a true soldier, she wanted to finish the battle she had started. So she applied for a position with Moffitt Cancer Center.
“I just wanted to focus on these patients that were really going through something and struggling because that’s what I had been doing in Newark and so I found myself more drawn to the hospital,” said Houston.
She now oversees Moffitt’s own vaccination clinic, channeling all the empathy she built up in New Jersey and applying it to her current patients.
“Felt like I was making a huge difference and I was getting to be on the other end where I was vaccinating all these people so it was really important work for me,” said Houston.