I don’t feel like a hero. I took an oath to take care of people and that’s all that I’m trying to do.
Mallory-Anne Perron ’14 has worked as a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for three years. Perron had seen a lot in her time working at one of the biggest hospitals in a major U.S. city, but knew the COVID-19 pandemic would present new challenges. When the hospital was preparing to convert certain units into COVID intensive care units (ICU), Perron volunteered to relocate to care for these patients.
“I’m young and I’m healthy and I thought I could help my co-workers,” she said. “I’ve never seen sicker patients in my life, and it was a surge of patients who were so critically ill. Even the veteran nurses are amazed. A large number of COVID ICU patients are intubated and need a machine to support their breathing. As nurses, we’re all learning to be flexible and adapt to the new reality. It’s just part of being an ICU nurse.”
Perron studied exercise physiology at Fitchburg State and was active on campus, serving as president of the Student Government Association running the Volunteer Center. She decided to pursue a degree in nursing after graduating from Fitchburg State, and said the interdisciplinary work that is so central to nursing has been informed by her experiences on campus. “All the leadership roles helped me gain more confidence in myself and my ability to speak to other people,” Perron said. “They helped mold me into being the person that I am.”
The challenges of working in medicine during a pandemic hit home for Perron in March. “I woke up one day and just didn’t feel well at all,” she said. “I thought maybe I’d worked out too hard.” But after finding she had a fever, she was tested for COVID-19 and the results were positive. “It was scary, but I kind of knew I had it when I started feeling the symptoms,” she said. “I was afraid, but I knew I was in the best place to be.”
She lay low for a few weeks at home, with her roommate’s – also a nurse – keeping an eye on her as she isolated herself.
The experience has not shaken her commitment to her path. “I’m just trying to do my job,” said Perron, who is looking at going back to school to pursue a career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist. “I don’t feel like a hero. I took an oath to take care of people and that’s all that I’m trying to do.”
This story was first published in the Summer 2020 edition of Contact, the university's alumni magazine.