Southcoast ICU Nurse Shares Firsthand Experiences

Stories from the #SouthcoastFrontlines: Michele Tsaliagos, ICU Nurse

The past year has brought unimaginable challenges to our community. As we each do our part to get vaccinated and continue to see signs of returning to a new normal, it is important to acknowledge the incredible work that many individuals across our community have done to help us get to this point. Today we highlight ICU Nurse, Michele Tsaliagos.

Here at Southcoast Health, we are extremely thankful for everyone who has helped on the Frontlines of COVID-19. Michele Tsaliagos, another #SouthcoastFrontlines Hero, shared her experience working in the St. Luke’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) throughout the pandemic.

Michele has been an ICU nurse for about eight years at St. Luke’s Hospital. Since she was young, nursing was always something that interested her, and she knew she wanted to pursue it as a career. Once a nurse, she was especially interested in working in the ICU to push herself to continue learning and helping others when they needed it most.

In early 2020, no one could have predicted what ICUs across the world would face in the next year.

“As an ICU nurse, you want to bring people back to health. You want them to get better and go home,” Michele says. “During COVID, we didn’t see that as often. It was really hard.”

Thankful for a Strong Team

Reflecting on this time now, Michele is thankful for the strong team she worked alongside. With no visitors allowed in the hospitals because of the COVID-19 guidelines, the nurses, physicians, and staff leaned on each other as would a family as they navigated the unknown.

“My team of fellow nurses — we all helped each other out. We shared our experiences and became a support system for each other, as we all were sharing the same feelings and were able to understand. Everyone jumped in and had each other’s backs, making sure everyone was protected from the virus.”

Michele says she missed seeing friends and relatives on the unit visiting. The phone isn’t the same. She missed the personal connection — the little things such as a family member telling a story about the patient or sharing a photo of a happier time.

Reaching for a New Normal to Help Her Patients

Now, as restrictions are easing, visitors are returning to see patients without COVID-19. Michele recently arranged for a visitor to sit with her dying sister in the ICU. Sharing that time with her sister was essential for both the closure and care of the patient.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when I went home,” she says. “This is what nursing is supposed to be about, facilitating that personal connection, so people have the chance to support and hold a loved one’s hand.”

Michele has worked at Southcoast Health almost her entire adult life. She initially earned her nurse’s aide license and became an aide in homecare starting when she was 19. Inspired by her team members, she returned to school to become a registered nurse and gained extensive experience on the med-surg unit before working in the ICU.

The Goal of an ICU Nurse: Watching Your Patients Leave the ICU Healthier

What she loves about nursing is connecting with patients and seeing people progress. “The feeling of seeing someone walk out of the ICU is so rewarding, and knowing you helped that patient improve and get back on their feet is amazing,” Michele says.

She also shared her knowledge that an important aspect of patient care is that it is a team effort.

“There are so many people involved in caring for patients, and everyone shares a part in helping a patient improve — doctors, nurses, nurse’s aides, respiratory therapists, and housekeeping staff. It takes the whole team, and I have so much respect for everyone’s role in that process.”

Thank you, Michele!