ICU nurse has adjusted to strain of working during pandemic

Sara Brodsky, an intensive care unit nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, receives the COVID-19 vaccine.


In mid-February, Sara Brodsky, a nurse, walked through the intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and for the first time since March 2020, she noticed that there were more non-COVID-19 patients than people stricken by the virus. 

“That was a good feeling,” said Brodsky, who belongs to Congregation Shaare Emeth. “It doesn’t appear that there is as much stress [among staff]. We are used to it now. We kind of know how protected we are, what works, what doesn’t work, so from a care standpoint, we are not as highly emotional about just entering the room.”

While Brodsky and her colleagues have adjusted to the demands of providing care during a pandemic, much has changed over the last year — and Brodsky thinks that more change is on tap.

Many of her colleagues have left St. Louis to become traveling nurses and moved to parts of the country where they can make as much as $10,000 per week because of staffing shortages, according to Kaiser Health News

But Brodsky is studying to become a family nurse practitioner, so she has remained in St. Louis. 

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“A lot of institutions have lost core staff because nurses are going where the highest needs are, which creates a cycle because then the institution” needs to fill that position, she said. “I’m not sure specifically how the field of nursing is going to change, other than this year more than ever proved how crucial nurses are.”

When Brodsky needs a reminder of the important role she and other nurses serve, she looks at a board in a break room where management has posted cards from patients and their family members expressing gratitude for the care they received. 

“Usually I am in the break room when I first come in to work at 7 in the morning, so seeing those things is an extra boost of why we do what we do and why we show up,” she said. “It’s important to remember that someone needs us.”