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Faculty Member Deployed by National Guard in the Midst of COVID-19

April 16, 2020

Bryce Bishop has seen a lot. As a member of the National Guard, he has been deployed to combat areas before, traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, and Africa. This time, he’s helping to stop a different enemy on the health care front lines battling COVID-19.

Bryce Bishop

His full-time job is as an acute care surgery program manager at Rochester Regional Hospital, and his part-time job is as an adjunct simulation instructor at the Wegmans School of Nursing. But today, his job in the National Guard has sent him to the University of Albany COVID testing site, where he oversees 14 military medics for 10-hour testing days.

“I am used to being gone and being in austere environments. During my combat deployments, I was on a medical flight team (Aeromedical Evacuation) and we airlifted combat injured troops to hospitals and sometimes we flew directly to Germany for specialized providers,” recalled Bishop. “Although I am in Albany, New York, it feels like a deployed location with tents. Being out in the elements and the enemy (COVID) is present.”

He spent his first week on site swabbing and was soon after made the site leader, now overseeing the entire swab operation. The “hot zone” of the site includes three positions – the scribe, the swabber, and the bagger. Bishop coaches each member of the team through every step, and when new nurses or medics arrive, he trains them as well. His experience during his 2014 deployment to Africa during the Ebola crisis—where he trained local health care providers how to protect themselves as they were on the front lines—has been especially valuable.

There is some familiarity for Bishop, as he has been joined by medics who are in nursing school, one of whom is a graduate student at Fisher, Jacqueline Joyce.

“I have been humbled to help in any way that I am able to ensure they get through the semester. I have certainly used my skills acquired as a clinical and simulation instructor at Fisher to help with the swab operations and the medics,” he said.

He notes that while there is a lot of fear with COVID-19, it is important for health care leaders to remain calm in the eye of the storm.

“We have a lot of evidence from other countries that this will pass, yet we must follow the rules,” he said.

As we now know, those rules include social distancing, which Bishop said does work. He stressed that the important thing to keep in mind is that while it may not impact you, it may impact your neighbor, your parents, your grandparents, and anyone who is immunocompromised or with pre-existing medical conditions.

And while he serves, he has his nursing students on his mind and has advice for those who will earn the coveted title of a Fisher nurse when they graduate in May.

“How incredible to be in your shoes. I remember my last semester of nursing school and being a little awestruck with the world in which I was entering,” he said. “I know this can be overwhelming and honestly downright scary. You will be in my shoes shortly and I want to express my gratitude and thanks. You are brave and you are strong. You are the superheroes that will fight and come out triumphant. You are more powerful than you know. Stay safe and stay strong.”