A Journey Through Unchartered Territory

A Nurse Executive's Frontline Pandemic Response

Cynthia Caroselli, PhD, RN


Nurs Econ. 2020;38(3):164-171. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Leadership in times of uncertainty, such as a disaster, requires intentional acts of role modeling. A nurse leader in a New York health system recounts the conceptual foundation, response, recovery, and lessons learned in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.


As the nation began to look forward to Spring 2020, unsettling reports of a new form of the coronavirus began filtering into the news. Initially felt to be nothing more innocuous than a variant of the common cold virus, it soon became apparent that we were in the beginning stages of an unprecedented viral pandemic that became known as COVID-19.

With alarming speed, hospitals became overwhelmed with previously unseen numbers of critically ill patients, many of whom required mechanical ventilation. New York City became the epicenter of this pandemic and Veterans Affairs (VA) New York Harbor Healthcare System (NYHHCS) responded to the needs of not only the Veteran population but also the citizens of New York City at large. The organization began a journey into unchartered territory. The background, setting, response, and lessons learned associated with this unique experience are described.