We are thrilled to honor one of our own Veterans, Karen Fountain, who works as a Clinical Liaison at a major hospital system in New York. She’s been on the front lines since the pandemic started, serving side-by-side with brave and selfless healthcare professionals throughout the fight against COVID-19. We asked her about her time in the Army and how it has prepared her for the battle closer to home.
1. What made you join the Army?
I joined the Army because I felt I needed to serve my country and make a difference in the world. My Father was a NYS Troop and also an Army Vet retiring as a Master Sergeant. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family with seven children and we were taught to help other people. The Army gave me an opportunity to learn, grow and become the person I am today. It helped shape me into my current beliefs, morals, standards and high expectations.
2. What was the most challenging experience during your service and what was your most cherished memory?
My most challenging experience was boot camp. Holy cow, I have never been worked so hard in my life. This is where I learned the discipline to strive for my goals, never give up and above all, never leave a man or woman behind. The drill sergeants taught me that respect is earned and in order to keep that respect, you must continue to prove you are worthy by being a leader.
My most cherished memory is my father at my side being sworn into the NYS National Guard. My second most cherished memory is when I was in Honduras and there was a bull loose in our field base – yes, a bull, and it was one of the funniest times in my military career (it was then I learned why they made us run every morning…).
3. What did you learn during your time that you apply now working at a hospital in New York during a pandemic?
This is a great question and very applicable. My role in the military was to establish and set up pop-up field medical units, mess halls, laundry, personal quarters, command centers etc. This helped a lot in the pandemic as I can work on my feet, see what has not been built or established and I do not panic.
The pandemic in NYC was a very hard hit and we were the learning and teaching point for most of the country. My experience helped me ensure that the safety of patient, our nurses and the community was the first priority. It allowed me to reach deep into my own self to be an example on the front line as a leader, hand in hand with my fellow nurses, doctors, PCA, clerks, housekeepers, food service workers, and more. All healthcare workers proved they are HEROES! I am very blessed and privileged to stand with my colleagues on the front line.
4. What comradery have you experienced as you work with other healthcare professionals to help fight COVID-19?
There is an overwhelming comradery with healthcare professionals on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. I continue to care for COVID-19 patients along with thousands of other healthcare workers who sacrifice every day. That comradery does not go away, we need each other to talk to, lean on, vent and sometimes just cry with.
I continue to keep in contact with nurses who have taken other assignments and moved onto other states. Working through the COVID-19 was an experience that will have a permanent effect on all healthcare workers and I hope that we all continue to understand, listen and support each other.
5. How has your time serving our country prepared you for being on the front lines fighting coronavirus?
My time in the military serving our country has prepared me for the front lines fighting coronavirus by preparing me for war, response, recovery and peace. COVID-19 is a war and continues to rage its anger thought the world. We are responding by offering the best care, treatment and support to patients, family, facilities and the community. We will recover and there is no doubt in that fact.
They are rapidly creating a vaccine while healthcare workers continue to fight the war. The end result will be peace. Peace of mind, peace in our response and actions, peace in our hearts knowing we ran into the fire to respond to the enemy, and finally, peace in the fact we did our best and made a difference.
At the end of the day it remains the same - “It’s my duty, it’s my job, I am a Soldier” lead me to “It’s my duty, it’s my job, I am a Nurse.”