Fighting on the Frontlines with Fiona Chew
Fiona Chew is the kind of nurse you want at your bedside. Her positive attitude and willingness to go above and beyond make her an excellent advocate for her patients and colleagues. Early on in the pandemic during the New York/New Jersey surge, Ardent Health Services asked for volunteers to assist the hospitals in the hotspot. Fiona didn’t hesitate to go. Listen to Fiona give you her story from the frontline.
Speaker 1: Welcome to Hospitals In Focus from the Federation of American Hospitals. Here’s your host Chip Kahn.
Chip Kahn: All the way from Scotland comes a nurse Fiona Chew, who is known for going above and beyond the call of duty. She is a seasoned caregiver who started her nursing career in England, but finds herself today in the US American Heartland in the state [00:00:30] of Oklahoma. This will be an exciting interview for me because many years ago, too many to mention, I spent a semester of college at the University of Edinburgh, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Scotland.
For the past 18 months, we have been facing one of the most historic challenges in COVID-19. Fiona’s colleagues, lean on her extensive experience and positive attitude as they fight alongside their patients against this pandemic. [00:01:00] We are so glad to have Fiona with us today on Making the Rounds. Fiona, thank you for joining me today from the Oklahoma Heart Institute at Hillcrest Medical Center.
Fiona Chew: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Chip Kahn: Great. Well, let’s get started. And before we get into talking about COVID and what you do at the hospital, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you decided to become a nurse?
Fiona Chew: From a very young age, I always was [00:01:30] friendly with people and I’m like I think I could probably make a difference. And so circumstances or life and I got married, I had kids and then finally at 30 I’m like, I want to do this. And so I went to nursing school and here I am following my dream.
Chip Kahn: So talking about that dream, how did you make your way from Scotland to the US and specifically to Oklahoma?
Fiona Chew: So my husband and I had [00:02:00] discussed living in another country, had to be an English speaking country, of course. And so we talked and we decided, and we came on vacation to Florida in like 2001. And we thought, yep. I think this is a place we’d like to be. So then we let our daughter finish school. And then we started applying through an international nursing agency and they connected me with Hillcrest Hospital South, who at the time were trying [00:02:30] a new program for international nurses. They offered me a job and here I am.
Chip Kahn: Great. What inspires you to serve patients so compassionately?
Fiona Chew: I just like people and I think that they need to be treated with respect and compassion because they’re in a place where they’re unfamiliar, they’re sick. We have relatives who are not able to come as often, so we are their family, their friends, [00:03:00] their caretakers, so going in and compassionate just makes them feel better.
Chip Kahn: Coming to Oklahoma, what was the most unexpected part of your job at the Oklahoma Heart Institute at Hillcrest Medical Center that you love doing?
Fiona Chew: I’m a cardiac nurse about, of course, during the pandemic we had to move our hospital around a little bit, so we got a lot of non-cardiac patients. Which was a little bit out of my comfort zone, [00:03:30] but again, these people needed to be looked after. So when they come, it’s given me a chance to use my nursing skills to learn something new, about a different disease, whether it be oncology or whatever. It just gives us a chance to kind of expand your nursing skills.
Chip Kahn: Was it hard making this sort of transition from being a cardiac cath nurse to serving patients in these other ways?
Fiona Chew: It was because we had to look at things differently. But a nurse [00:04:00] is a nurse and patients need look after. So giving them the medicines the same, it’s just looking at the different systems, instead of looking at their heart, you may be looking at why they need surgery for a foot to be taken off or whatever. And then it’s working with different doctors as well, because of course doctors have different specialties also.
Chip Kahn: When Ardent Health Services asked for volunteers to help with the New York, New Jersey surge early in the pandemic, you raised your hand. And once [00:04:30] again, showing your commitment to caring for patients, you agreed to go east. What was that experience like for you?
Fiona Chew: It was very, very humbling because these nurses were overwhelmed because the patient ratio, these patients were coming through the ER faster than these poor nurses could take. So they needed help. And we were lucky enough in Oklahoma that we didn’t have the same amount of sick COVID patients. And so I decided that I [00:05:00] would like to experience it and so that is one of the reasons I went.
Chip Kahn: What is it like to work for an organization that allows you to step up, to help other communities in need?
Fiona Chew: Ardent is awesome. There was no hesitation when they said we could go, they ensured that we were safe at all times. Our chief nursing officer checked with the chief nursing officer from the other hospital to check that we were okay. Ardent also ensured that we were in an accommodation, not too far from the hospital, because [00:05:30] we were in a place where we were very unfamiliar. They made sure that we had everything that we needed and just checked on us and made sure that we were good. So they were awesome.
Chip Kahn: Serving COVID patients is really tough and you have animated that. How do you keep your spirits up and how do you stay motivated when you’re facing these kinds of very sick patients?
Fiona Chew: Sometimes it can be very difficult. However, to walk in a room smiling [00:06:00] at a sick patient makes them feel better than a nurse who’s like coming in and going oh, I’m so sorry, and you’re crying. So to be motivated makes them feel better. And sometimes your motivation, my motivation, is hidden a little bit, but I tried to go in with a smile on my face all the time. And I tried to keep the other staff motivated as well for the same reason. Patients are sick and they really don’t need people who are not very motivated to do the job.
Chip Kahn: All of us, and particularly [00:06:30] you at the front lines, have experienced something unprecedented in COVID-19. I mean, assuming we get over COVID, which ho hopefully we will. Do you think it’s going to change things in the future in terms of how you do your work at the hospital or generally in any other ways?
Fiona Chew: So the world probably will never be the same due to COVID because people will be, hopefully more aware of their surroundings and the people [00:07:00] that they’re there, because some people don’t want to take the vaccination. Some people have got the vaccination. You don’t know, they don’t carry a sign saying hey, I’ve been vaccinated. So you’ve just got to be aware of your surroundings and aware of the people. And hopefully one day, sooner rather than later, we will get over this.
Chip Kahn: Fiona, thank you so much for taking time with us today. And we really appreciate it, your service, and thank you for that too.
Fiona Chew: Thank you so much. And it was a pleasure. [00:07:30] Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to Hospitals In Focus from the Federation of American Hospitals. Learn more at fh.org. Follow the Federation on social media at FAhospitals, and follow Chip at Chip Kahn. Please rate, review, and subscribe to Hospitals In Focus. Join us next time for more in-depth conversations with healthcare leaders.