News & Politics

Heroes of the Crisis: Two Nurses Who Are There When Covid Is at its Worst

Patients "may be experiencing their most vulnerable moments, and all they have is you.”

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

This article is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “Heroes of the Crisis.” From medical professionals to social-justice activists to culinary stars, here are some of the people who have helped get us through these most challenging of times. Read about the 15 people making a difference during the pandemic here.

Shewit  Burhan & Erica  Williams
Covid nurses, George Washington University Hospital

How they’re helping: 

Nurses are at the forefront of every hospital’s fight to save Covid-19 patients. They also serve as critical sources of emotional support for those who have to remain isolated from families while in the hospital. “They may be experiencing their most vulnerable moments,” says Burhan, “and all they have is you.”

Biggest win: 

The most meaningful victories are when they’re able to watch patients who were seriously ill get up and walk out of the hospital. “You feel like you are a part of that,” says Williams. “A part of their getting better.”

Hardest moment: 

When her unit admitted its first Covid-positive patient, Williams was terrified of contracting the virus herself. The following day, she broke down crying at home in front of her children. “The fear—that was the hardest part.”

Moment of connection: 

In the early days, when the hospital was packed with Covid suffer-ers, Burhan became particularly close with the unit’s rapid-response nurse. “We also have gone though a lot of sad situations together with losing patients,” she says. “That’s a bond that’s unique.”

Toughest challenge: 

“Despite our best efforts,” says Burhan, “some people just don’t make it. And that’s the hardest part.”

How they unwind: 

Spending time with family. Burhan’s sister is an emergency-medicine nurse at GW, and the two decompress by exchanging stories about their workdays. “She’ll understand where I’m coming from and vice versa,” she says. “That definitely helped us to wind down.”

What they’re looking forward to:

Not having to wear a mask all the time. “I hope we can one day get there,” Williams says.

This article appears in the October 2020 issue of Washingtonian.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.