Pictured: Morgan Feshler, a 2012 graduate of Middletown High, has worked in labor and delivery for nearly a year. “It’s a privilege and such an honor to witness that part of a person’s life,” she says.
By Paul Augeri
Middletown High graduate Morgan Feshler did not choose a career in nursing. Nursing, as her story goes, chose her.
This summer will mark 25-year-old Feshler’s one-year anniversary working in the labor and delivery unit at New York-Presbyterian’s Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Assisting in births puts her a world away from Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, where she spent the first three years of her career in an intensive care setting.
“I liked ICU, but I was just ready for a change after three years,” says Feshler, who earned her nursing degree from UConn. “It was primarily a neurosurgical ICU in Miami, but I also had medical ICU patients. Where in ICU you are present for the potential end of someone’s life, in labor and delivery you are there for the beginning.
“I was ready for a different side of things and I’ve had some profound experiences.”
The precautions she takes at New York-Presbyterian were not enough, because nearly three weeks ago Feshler began to have symptoms of the coronavirus. COVID-19 has devastated New York, with the death toll at 9,385 as of Sunday. Hospitalizations for the virus, however, are beginning to trend downward.
Feshler believes she was exposed at work, although “at the end of the day I live in New York City and I could have picked it up anywhere,” she said.
She was not tested because in New York, tests are not given unless a patient requires hospitalization. Feshler checked in with her doctor and was able to manage her symptoms while under self-quarantine. In the two weeks at home, the intense headaches and muscle aches have subsided. She no longer feels exhausted. Her senses of taste and smell – “losing them was a bizarre experience” — are beginning to return. She’s just about back to her old self.
“Every day I’m getting a little better,” she said. “That I contracted COVID, it’s OK. I’m definitely very proud to be doing what I do. And I’m lucky with my symptoms because there are so many people that aren’t lucky.”
Self-pity? Not an ounce, even in this crisis. Feshler is a nurse. She wants to get back to caring for expectant mothers.
“Through all of this I’ve never been more proud to be a nurse,” she said. “It’s an honor to be able to do this. This is why we go into a profession like this. We want to help people. These are unfortunate circumstances, but it’s a job and an honor to be able to help others.”
Feshler will return to work at the end of this week. She said she won’t hesitate to care for COVID-19 patients if asked.
“When I do get back, I will ask if there is a need on the ICU units, because if they do need nurses there, I would definitely help out,” she said.
Feshler, a 2012 Middletown grad, was a soccer player and rower at MHS and editor-in-chief of the school’s award-winning student newspaper, Blue Prints. Sports are a big deal in the Feshler family. Her sister, Maddie, played softball at Middletown. Her father, Tim, is a longtime football coach (Xavier and Avon) and baseball coach. Her mother, Shelly, was involved for years in Middletown youth softball.
At UConn, she began her clinical studies as a junior. The training experience took her to Hartford and Middlesex hospitals, the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in the pediatric intensive care unit.
At Mount Sinai in Florida post-graduation, working in ICU was an intense experience and she learned a lot. Helping deliver babies has been incredibly fulfilling.
“It’s a privilege and such an honor to witness that part of a person’s life, to be there present with the parents,” she said. “I will say in nursing, in general, the documentation is excessive and nursing burnout is real. I have to step back often and remember to value the benefits of my job and being able to see birth through all of that. The art of nursing sometimes does get lost with the bureaucracy and it can be very stressful, but being a nurse is very rewarding.”
The last two months in New York have provided challenges all their own. There is caring for expectant mothers, and then there is caring for expectant mothers who have the coronavirus.
“We have a fair share of patients with COVID on our unit,” Feshler said. “There is still a high need for nurses on our unit. Quite a few (pregnant women) have come in with COVID. A lot of times they don’t present symptoms, but then they develop symptoms while on the ward. They just implemented a new rule that every mom admitted into our unit will be tested so they can be properly isolated” if they are positive for coronavirus.
Feshler has had a lifelong interest in medicine. She started out at UConn as an allied health major with an eye on becoming a physician’s assistant, but that changed after she enrolled in Nursing 101. She had found her calling. Or maybe it found her.
“Nursing was never anything I had to choose. I remember watching a documentary in class, ‘A Nurse I Am.’ The premise was (nursing) is not what I do, it’s who I am,” she recalls, “and I fell in love with the profession. Not to be cliché, but I’ve never looked back.”