2019 Ann M. and Leon T. Kolanowski Trustee Scholarship recipient shares hardship

October 15, 2020

The 2019 Ann M. and Leon T. Kolanowski Trustee Scholarship recipient and alumna, Hannah Haag, has been on the frontlines in the upper east side of New York City since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing the hardships health care workers have endured the past few months, Haag remembers the patients she was able to make smile as something that got her through countless difficult days.

Growing up in an unstable household, Haag was happy to have her grandmother and aunt to help her through the college application process and loan process that got her through Penn State.

“The loans are still something that weigh on me every time I go to work or wake up in the morning,” Haag said. “However, I received an excellent education, and I am in a job that I absolutely love. It is stressful sometimes; but I am confident I will be successful in my career and pay it forward.”

Last year, Haag was awarded with the Ann M. and Leon T. Kolanowski Trustee Scholarship in Nursing – an award presented to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in geriatric research. Haag’s research focused on the opioid epidemic as part of her nursing research class.

“The fact that someone was able to provide monetary support and make it easier for me means so much because I never had that besides what my grandma and my aunt were able to give” Haag said.

Living through her traumatic childhood has made Haag second-guess some of her choices in life, especially when it has come to money. However, the support she has received throughout her nursing career and schooling has enforced her decision to become a nurse.

“Interacting with and having the support of the nursing staff all four years of my undergrad made me realize that I can make an actual impact,” Haag said. “I am proud of myself and I am in a profession lucky enough to not only able to pay back my debt, but also pay back to my community.

Today, Haag works as a registered nurse at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Emergency Department in New York City. In this role, Haag and her colleagues would have gone through a year-long orientation program, shadowing the ICU nurses, attending the ER doctor lectures, and participating in collaborative efforts with them. Unfortunately, since the coronavirus pandemic began, Haag and her new co-workers were pulled from orientation to help with patients in the emergency department.

“I personally was nervous being in the room for my first intubation,” Haag said. “but I work with people that are very teamwork focused, so it ended up being a positive experience and now I have confidence in myself because of their encouragement.”

As the pandemic escalated, the hospital Haag worked at began to section off the ER section to just infectious patients, where at one point Haag remembers it seemed like intubation after intubation every second for infected patients.

Although Haag and her colleagues were fearful of being unprepared for the unprecedented situation at hand, Haag feels more confident as a nurse and the connection with her patients now more than ever.

“I feel I am better able to emotionally connect with my patients now. During the pandemic patients could not have any visitors or talk to their family in person, so as a nurse we were their advocates.” Haag said.

As the pandemic slowed, Haag’s hospital began preparing for a potential second wave of infectious patients. They have continued to keep areas blocked off for infectious patients, holding only the people with the most severe symptoms.

While hospitals and health care providers get better adjusted to the demands of the pandemic and other new challenges, Haag looks forward to returning to the orientation program, which has recently restarted, and being able to see her grandmother again, who she has distanced from since the start of the pandemic for safety.

She encourages and applauds other nurses working during these times to be proud of themselves and continue fighting.

“Although it is gruesome, tiring, frustrating, and sometimes you just want to cry, you have to hold onto that one patient you were able to make smile at the end of the day – that will all make it worth it.” Haag said. “As nurses, we have had to turn and improvise with some of our own rules because what’s going on is so new. But we all have each other and that’s incredibly important.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 02, 2020