OHIO — A Cedarville University graduate is living the dream of serving people in one of the hardest times in American history.

What You Need To Know

  • Rachel Hartley graduated from Cedarville University and is a native of Columbus

  • She's focused on serving COVID-19 patients in several different states in addition to the US Virgin Islands

  • Hartley's stint in St. Thomas ends in a few weeks and that will give her time to discover where she's headed next

When Rachel Hartley saw COVID-19 cases exploding in New York int he spring, she said she knew what she had to do.

“I just knew I was training for this. I was equipped for this," the Columbus native said. "I was a viable candidate to go and help, and I was hearing the pleas from the health care world.”

So, she left her anesthesia pre-op nursing job in Lynchburg, Virginia and sailed with her husband on their boat to New York. There she began work at New York University Langone Hospital in Brooklyn as a contract nurse with FEMA. When she arrived, Rachel said it was hard seeing tons of sick patients and mass chaos.

“The first like four or five weeks that I was in New York, Every patient that I had taken care of or had helped in their care, ended up passing away.”

No doubt, it was tough, but her biggest desire was to help, serve and to love people. Working day in and day out, she knew she and her husband could get COVID-19 and maybe even die from it.

“That was something we just had to just pray over and say, OK God, like you're in control, no matter what. Like, if this is something we get really sick over, if this is something we lose our life, like we just want to know that we're doing it in the service of others, and we're gonna sacrifice our personal safety or personal comfort to do this,” Hartley said.

Being led by her faith and calling, the pair sailed to another hospital in Connecticut for a short stint of time. As hurricane season and COVID-19 cases rose in the Virgin Islands, Rachel took off again, but this time by plane to serve at Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas as an ICU nurse. It’s the only hospital on the island. 

Hartley said with all of her travels to differrent hospitals, she’s learned a lot as a nurse during the pandemic.

“Just the ability to be flexible and to just live for the good of others.” And finding the good in what isn’t so good even when it meant holding a patient’s hand or video chatting a family member before someone took their last breath.

While Hartley isn’t sure where she’ll end up next, she does have her eye on the Pacific Northwest or the Midwest as a next stop. For now, while in St. Thomas, she said she’s been able to connect with other nurses who also worked in New York and that's made her experience that much more worth while.