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Gretchen Bernatowicz '19 DNP, CRNP

Female nurse wearing ace mask

Nurse Practitioner, Villanova Student Health Center

& Volunteer, Medical Reserve Corps of Philadelphia , at the COVID Surge Facility at the Liacouras Center 

May 2, 2020

As COVID-19 found its way onto college campuses, daily life in the student health center was turned upside down. When the decision was made to close the university and send the students home, our patient population all but disappeared and we transitioned our model to one that could still provide care for the students who were left, while protecting our staff. Knowing that my time in the health center would be limited, I started to look for ways that I could volunteer my time and expertise. I could not just sit back and watch my friends and fellow health care warriors fight this. I needed to be "out there" too.

I joined the Medical Reserve Corps of Philadelphia and volunteered to work as an NP in the COVID Surge Facility at the Liacouras Center. During orientation, I learned that Sandy Gomberg, a former professor from the DNP program, was the CEO. I could not have imagined a better person for the job. I stopped into her office to say hello. What began as a quick check-in chat turned into a discussion of how I could contribute and concluded with Sandy's directive, "GO USE YOUR DNP!"

I joined the Infection Prevention and Control Team and hit the ground running. I have drafted, reviewed and revised policies, procedures, and job action plans. I have oriented staff to the proper use of PPE. And every day I ensure the availability and safe keeping of the personal protective equipment that is essential to keep our staff safe. I have quickly learned the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and have met some of the smartest and the best leaders in the city. I have witnessed what is possible when a great team of people is brought together by an even greater leader. I have witnessed a hospital being built from scratch in a basketball arena.

I’ve sat in a room with a CEO, a CFO, and a CNO and contributed to the conversation, I have collaborated with experts in logistics, safety, decontamination, and law enforcement and learned something from every single one. I have logged about 6 miles a day making my way around the building to check in with all the departments that keep us running smoothly. And while there was a lot of “on the job learning” to be done, my DNP education provided me with the skills and confidence to rise to this challenge.

Joining the COVID Surge Facility has been one of the most challenging things I have done and one of the most rewarding. I could not be prouder of the team that I work with and what we have accomplished. And when people ask me “what can or what will you do with your DNP,” I will point to the Liacouras Arena and say, “THIS! This is what I’ve done with my DNP!”

Inspired to share your COVID-19 story?

We welcome submissions from Villanova Nurses about their experience during COVID-19. Please email with your photo, name, credentials, degree/year, role and employer/location along with a brief story of your experience, your reflections on nursing and/or how your Villanova Nursing education prepared you for this pandemic.

Your submission may be used on this page and potentially on social media or in related College communication. Thank you!