Mike Best

Mike Best, a 2005 Indiana Area High School graduate, is working temporarily at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Best, who also graduated from La Roche College with a degree in nursing and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nurse anesthesia at the University of Scranton, saw the plight of his fellow medical workers and decided to help.

He, his wife and his daughter were in Indiana visiting his wife’s family while he was on spring break when the outbreak started to intensify.

“I was obsessed with watching CNN,” Best said. “I wanted to know everything that was developing with the coronavirus. The more I watched, the more I saw about how hard New York City was being hit and how much help they needed.”

Once Best got word that school wouldn’t be returning to session after break, he began ruminating on the idea of going to help.

“I thought about it and asked Jenny, my wife, if she’d be OK with it. She said no, but that she understood and that she supported me. I just couldn’t stand by watching while knowing that I could do something.”

Decision made, Best started the process of submitting his résumé to recruiters. Since many hospitals and facilities was in crisis mode, the process was expedited. There were no interviews. Hospitals hired based strictly on résumés.

Best, who has worked in the field since 2011, focuses in critical care. He was accepted for a position at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and was quickly thrust into the thick of things.

“We had a brief four- or five-hour orientation,” he said. “During it someone asked if they had COVID units and the poor people who did the orientation said, ‘I don’t think you understand. Every patient here is COVID positive right now. We don’t work on COVID units; we have COVID hospitals.’”

From there, Best was thrown into physically and mentally grueling work. While he didn’t experience any lack of equipment in his case, the hospital was severely understaffed when he first arrived.

“I know what it’s like to be short-staffed,” he said. “But this was being short-staffed to the extreme. Plus, so many of us were new to the hospital. I was on a ward with someone who was also new and we were both unsure and uncertain.”

In the beginning, things were chaotic and disorganized as the entire staff worked to adapt to what was happening, but eventually things started to come together.

“It was like some sort of unwritten rule,” Best said. “We weren’t sure what was happening, but we all came together and did what we knew we had to do, which was take care of the patients. Things were a little bit different, but it’s what we signed up for.”

After completing his first week, Best said he wasn’t sure if he could ever come back. It wasn’t until he saw the 18-wheeler refrigerated trucks that were being used as makeshift morgues in the back alley behind the hospital that made the surreal come into focus.

“I saw those trucks there and that’s when it really hit me,” he said. “I just thought to myself, ‘This is what’s happening right here, right now.’”

Best said he was hired on to help for a commitment of six weeks. He is currently nearing the end of his stint at the hospital, which consists of working there three days in a row. During those days he stays in a hotel before traveling back home to his family in Scranton. When his time is up, he plans on staying home and shifting his focus back to his schoolwork.

As things have gone on, the hospital staff, both regular employees and hired-on nurses, have found more of a rhythm.

“The hospital has enough staff now, which is the biggest thing,” said Best. “But the hospital is still considered a COVID hospital, and we’re still getting very sick patients. But knowing how things have been working is helping things to move along more smoothly. Things definitely won’t be calmed down for awhile.”