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Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 9:15am

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During the peak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and fears of the disease spreading in March and April, some pregnant women were forced to give birth alone, without their partners, doulas, or families present to provide critical emotional support.

For clinical staff nurse and College of New Rochelle alumna Sasha Winslow ’11, who works in the postpartum wing at an academic teaching hospital in New York City, this limitation required her to “be everything to everyone” in a very difficult environment. Knowing her postpartum patients were facing high levels of stress and anxiety due to the absence of support and concerns surrounding COVID-19, she did her best to provide the highest quality care possible, using her personal experience of child birth and motherhood and her education at CNR, to be a source of hope and sound guidance.

“When new mothers have a partner with them, it’s like having a cheerleader there,” Winslow explained. “It put a lot of pressure on nurses – we had to safeguard the health of all mothers and babies, taking extra care because of COVID-19, plus had to provide extra emotional support. All while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) from head to toe, with our facial expressions masked.”

So how did Winslow build rapport and encourage her patients? “I kept telling new mothers, ‘You just went through some warrior stuff,’” she said. Her encouragement made moms laugh, and more importantly see themselves are strong and capable.

In usual circumstances, Winslow primarily cares for mothers and babies, assessing their health after delivery to ensure healing. She provides support for mothers whose babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit, teaches mothers how to breastfeed and educates families on postpartum depression. The COVID-19 situation made carrying out these tasks in a thorough manner difficult. “Every day there was another obstacle we had to overcome and unfortunately, sometimes we had to make sacrifices, like shorten our time with each mom to get to everyone who needed support,” Winslow described.

As a former New York State Nurses Association union delegate of her hospital and well-known nurse advocate to her colleagues, Winslow found herself helping fellow nurses navigate unprecedented challenges, such as PPE shortages, and helped them access personal health and wellness resources if needed. She attributes these leadership capabilities to lessons learned from her CNR program mentors, including Dr. Deborah Hunt, current associate dean of nursing for Mercy’s School of Health and Natural Sciences, with whom she keeps in touch.

“Sasha epitomizes the ‘CNR Nurse’ – grounded in caring and healing, life-long learning, service and advocacy,” said Hunt. “Her passion and advocacy were apparent during her days as a student. When I taught Ms. Winslow, I was a doctoral student, and when I was seeking a research assistant she readily volunteered for the position. I am so very proud of Sasha for her numerous accomplishments.”

Winslow knew she wanted to be a nurse since age 10, when she witnessed her father struggling with comorbidities – prostate cancer and diabetes. “That’s when I knew I wanted to go into health care. CNR taught me the right tools to fulfill this lifelong dream and give back to the profession,” she reflected. This innate desire to care for others, and strong sense of duty to her colleagues, keeps her motivated. “We’re all bonded by humanity - that’s what gets me up in the morning.”

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