Creighton Nursing student is Navy nurse deployed to New York City
Creighton Nursing student is Navy nurse deployed to New York City

Every night at 1900 (7 p.m.), the citizens of New York City throw open their windows to cheer for the people who are keeping their city safe.

They cheer for trash collectors, service workers and first responders. They cheer for doctors, nurses and public health officials. They cheer for people like Lt. j.g. Genienne McGrath.

McGrath, a student pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree through the Creighton University College of Nursing, is an activated reservist in the U.S. Navy, currently deployed to New York to help care for COVID-19 patients. The virus has surged in the city and throughout the state of New York, which, as of mid-April, counted more cases than any foreign country worldwide.

McGrath, based in Des Moines, Iowa, serves as a critical care unit nurse in the Navy. Her deployment is in support of an effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to treat the staggering number of COVID-19 cases within New York. She has been assigned to a local hospital where she cares for COVID-19 patients.

One of the most striking things about the situation on the ground, she says, is how empty the city is.

“The streets are empty,” McGrath says. “I would say that the people are abiding by the governor’s request to stay in place and only come out if necessary.”

Overall, she says the people of New York have been extremely warm and receptive. The cheers every evening, she says, are shockingly loud.

“Someone from the Midwest might think that New York is a hard, crusty city. But any time we walk down the streets or go anywhere, there’s nothing but a verbal response of graciousness. They have tears in their eyes,” she says. “The people in the hospital that we work with, the people in the streets, they’re so very thankful that we’re here, that someone is here supporting them.”

McGrath says she chose Creighton because of its Jesuit, Catholic mission. So far, she says, the University has lived up to her expectations by giving her the flexibility to respond to her orders.

“My professors were very receptive,” she says. “I didn’t have cause to worry about anything else, so I could come here and do this job. It’s that Jesuit approach of caring for the whole person — they have really supported me in this side of my professional life, knowing that it’s for the greater good.”