Alumna helps COVID-19 patients as an active U.S. Navy nurse

Natalie DeSouza
May 08, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted and redefined the job duties of many people throughout the past two months.

Penn State alumna Julia Mauro recounts how her role as an active duty registered nurse in the U.S. Navy has melded into being on the front-lines of the the novel coronavirus pandemic.

She currently works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Naval Medical Center in Porstmouth, VA. In this Q&A, Mauro shares how she has overcome challenges that have come her way and how the College of Nursing has helped her succeed. 

Q: How has your role evolved to respond to the pandemic? 

MAURO: I am currently deployed on the USNS Comfort helping the people of NYC during this COVID-19 pandemic. It has been quite an experience. When deployed on the Comfort, I worked on the adult ICU/step down unit treating COVID and non-COVID patients. This was a very different patient population for me as I am used to working with children. 

Q: Did you feel prepared for your new job responsibilities? 

MAURO: I feel like Penn State Nursing prepared me to be adaptable to any variety of clinical situations. During this time nurses are being challenged; we are being asked to step up and face new and different clinical situations, and Penn State Nursing prepared me to do just that on the Comfort. 

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to face during the pandemic? 

MAURO: One of the biggest challenges I have had to face during this pandemic has been learning how to deal with so many unknowns. I am a person of habit, routine, and love to plan ahead, so this has been hard as us nurses, and really all health care professionals, are breaching uncharted territory with COVID-19. My role during the pandemic so far as involved deploying to NYC on the USNS Comfort to help ease the stress on NYC hospitals. It was a challenge having a 48-hour notice that we were leaving, to pack our bags for a mission that could last anywhere from 1 to 6 months. While we were in NYC, myself and my coworkers worked several days in a row before getting a day off to accommodate the influx of patients and high acuity; this was definitely a challenge for all of us, but we did it! 

Q: What have you done to keep in high spirits during this difficult time of a pandemic? 

MAURO: My family, friends, and coworkers have kept me in high spirits during this pandemic; their love and support is unwavering. I could not do anything I am doing as a Navy nurse if it weren't for them. 

Q: What is your favorite part of your current role in nursing? 

MAURO: Although I have been in a few areas of nursing since joining the Navy, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is my passion. My favorite part about being a NICU nurse is working with such a resilient and complex patient population. It is absolutely amazing watching our babies grow, heal, and graduate from the NICU. I am honored to have the opportunity to take care of our military's sons and daughters. 

Q: What is something you would say to other nurses working during the pandemic? 

MAURO: To all the current nurses, we can do this! To all the future nurses, nursing is hard, and being a nurse is mentally and physically draining, but don't forget to take care of yourself first so you can take care of others. 


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Last Updated May 08, 2020