Claire Donahue ’15 is Serving as an ICU Nurse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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At Jefferson Health, Claire Donahue ’15, a Delaware Valley University alumna, is working on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. As a registered nurse in the neurological ICU, she’s caring for people who have suffered from strokes, brain hemorrhages, aneurysm ruptures, brain tumors, and lately, COVID-19.

“It has been a humbling experience,” said Donahue. “These patients didn’t ask to get this disease. They never in their wildest dreams thought they would be admitted to the ICU during a pandemic.”

The work is resource-intensive and draining at times, but Donahue has been staying positive. 

“I have taken care of quite a few patients with COVID-19,” said Donahue. “It’s exhausting but that’s exactly what I signed up for! As a nurse, you’re there to keep your patients safe and to give them the best chance at survival. At the end of my shift, I leave feeling like I’ve made a difference.”

During her time as an animal science major at DelVal, Donahue volunteered at Doylestown Hospital because she was able to walk there as a freshman without a car. It was that volunteer experience that sparked an interest in nursing. After DelVal, she decided to pursue a nursing degree at Jefferson. 

“I was able to get all of the prerequisite classes I needed for nursing school at DelVal,” said Donahue. “I have two bachelor’s degrees and I went to Thomas Jefferson University for one additional year.”

She said her professors at DelVal helped to solidify her interest in science and medicine.

“I had wonderful professors,” said Donahue. “Dr. Ponnock’s anatomy and physiology lessons spearheaded my interest in the human body, especially the anatomy class because we were learning with human cadavers. I also did research with Dr. Keler for the Student Research course where I was able to come into the lab, grow fungi under different variables, and report on it. Student Research was the turning point for knowing I wanted to study science. I was really proud of the work I did in that course.”

In addition to knowledge and experience, Donahue came away from her time at DelVal with a network of friends who still support her today. As a student, she was largely involved with the university's equestrian programs. She is a member of the Sigma Alpha sorority and served as FFA president.

“The friendships I made on campus were my favorite part of my experience,” said Donahue. “DelVal is a wonderful place to learn and I cherish the memories I have from going to school there. There’s no other place quite like it.”

People outside of her friends and family have also been showing their support in a variety of ways that Donahue has found inspiring. 

“People are showing support (for health care workers) with mask and food donations, and children are writing cards to our patients because their families are not permitted in the hospital during the pandemic,” said Donahue. "I think that we're all really grateful to feel supported by the communities we live in. This is a heartbreaking time for health care providers, having our patients not do well and wishing so badly that they make a turn for the better. A lot of total strangers are showing love in ways I've never seen before and for that I am thankful."

She said that people can help medical professionals and their patients by listening to public health guidelines. 

“Stay home and tell everyone in your circle to also just stay home,” said Donahue. “Yes, it is scary, but I think it is important to emphasize that the majority of people do make full recoveries from the virus despite the unknowns.”

As students think about their careers, Donahue said she would tell them to be persistent and not let fear stop them from applying. 

“If you work hard repeatedly, arrive early, reach out, and ask questions you will get to be where you want to be,” said Donahue. “Everything will work out; you just might not realize it yet.”