Ensign Christopher Schmied and Peter Liets both graduated from the Brookline College BSN program in April 2019. They were friends, and Liets served as best man at Schmied’s wedding. Both worked as nurses—ENS Schmied at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NH) Intensive Care Unit/Step Down Unit and Liets at a cardiac/surgical progressive care unit at Banner Desert in Arizona. Then COVID-19 happened. Now the two are together again—at least in the same city—helping treat coronavirus patients.
While ENS Schmied was deployed to New York City aboard the USNS Comfort, Liets joined a temporary nursing agency and also traveled to New York to work on the front line. “Initially, the USNS Comfort was sent to New York to relieve pressure on hospitals by treating people with ailments other than COVID-19, ENS Schmied says. However, on April 6, the USNS Comfort began accepting trauma, emergency and urgent-care patients without regard to their COVID status.”
Liets, on the other hand, is primarily treating COVID-19 patients and supporting them through their ordeal. “The toughest part is just remembering that even if you’re nervous, the patients are the ones who are more nervous, and they need a level-headed nurse who is making them feel safe and comfortable,” Liets says. It’s important to ease their anxiety. “They are sick with a new, dangerous virus, and they don’t even have family at their bedside; they need all the love and support they can get.”
Both ENS Schmied and Liets agree that the fear of the unknown about COVID is stressful, but they say their wives support them and ease their stress—even though they are miles away. “I talk with my wife every night, and she encourages and supports me,” Liets says. ““I often find the strength and reassurance I need to do my job from my wife and best friend, Sara,” ENS Schmied says. “I also take an immense amount of pride and feel relieved to be working with so many fantastic nurses, corpsmen, and doctors. Their competence, support and energy motivate me and aid me throughout this mission.”
Another area of agreement the friends share is how the rest of us can help health professionals during this trying time and keep ourselves safe. In addition to abiding by local and national recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ENS Schmied suggests, “Reach out to friends, family, and essential personnel whom you cannot socialize with and check in on them. We may be fighting this battle on many fronts, but we are not alone; it helps to be reminded of that.” Liets adds, “WASH YOUR HANDS (20-30 seconds). Be respectful of others and try to remember that everyone is stressed about this; courtesy to others can make a difference. Take care of yourselves so you don’t end up visiting us in the hospital.”
COVID-19 will subside over time, and there will be a vaccine down the road. Until then, it’s good to know that the U.S. has amazing, dedicated nurses and healthcare workers watching out for all of us. ENS Christopher Schmied and Peter Liets—friends, Brookline College graduates, nurses—are among that group.
For more information about nursing programs, contact Brookline College.