Well prepared for COVID-19 nursing in Abu Dhabi

Gavin Shaner credits Naz professors and lacrosse coaches for shaping his skills

Using his nursing skills to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) was "by far the best experience and most challenging I have had as a nurse," says Gavin Shaner '18.

He was among 40 caregivers who traveled from Cleveland for five weeks in mid-2020 during a surge in cases in Abu Dhabi.

Shaner is usually a cardiovascular surgery intensive care nurse at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Gavin Shaner

"I am thankful to the Nazareth Nursing Department for preparing me to handle anything clinical and critically think through every situation," he says.

Shaner also credits his Naz lacrosse coaches: "I became a better leader, more confident, and most importantly a team player who is able to work in a hospital-based team atmosphere."

He calls nursing "the greatest profession in the world."

Gavin Shaner
Gavin Shaner

What prompted you to become a nurse? What makes it the greatest profession in the world?

A collection of events throughout my life instilled a passion for healthcare and a goal of becoming the third generation nurse in my family.

  • Bring Your Child to Work Day meant for me overnights in call rooms, exploring the equipment in the operating room, and being attached to cardiovascular monitors to watch my heart race.
  • Family vacations included various nursing seminars where I would sneak into the back row of the auditorium while the speakers lectured.
  • Whether it was my father discussing the patients he cared for that day or the sharing of a nursing journal that he thought I may be interested in, I was always included in the world of nursing.

Nursing provides the opportunity to put my knowledge to work for the benefit of a patient, allows for direct, hands-on patient care, and is a platform for constant engagement and learning. There is never a boring day as a nurse and every experience leads you to become a better provider. These vast opportunities, coupled with the ability to serve patients at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, is what makes nursing the best profession in the world.

What experience stands out most from Abu Dhabi?

One experience that stood out to me in Abu Dhabi encapsulates the thing I love most about working in the ICU: caring for a patient throughout their ICU stay and observing the progress/milestones they make. This is also one of the most rewarding things I have the pleasure to be a part of as a nurse.

The patient that was most memorable was one with multiple IV medications for pain/sedation/blood pressure with several drains who also was on a mechanical ventilator that was breathing for them. I remember the surgeon explaining to the family member how this patient was lucky to be alive and how hard the road ahead would be. Each day I could see the direct, positive impact of my actions and treatments. I witnessed this patient progress all the way to being weaned from mechanical ventilation and up to sitting in a chair for the first time.

Gavin Shaner

Gavin Shaner is 10th from the right in the back row.

How did the overseas experience change you?

When I first volunteered to travel to Abu Dhabi, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how I would handle it for one; how it would be different culturally, how the healthcare would be different, or how our group would be received. After my first shift at CCAD, all of my worries were put at rest. The unit that I was on looked like it could have been a part of any hospital in the United States.

Culturally, there were adaptations to make in order to be respectful and after the first week they were second nature. Most of all, every person I met inside of the hospital or outside was very friendly. The hospital staff really appreciated the assistance. As for caring for patients, this experience helped me realize that no matter where you are, the end goal is to care for your patients in the best way that you can.

Gavin Shaner
Gavin Shaner

You're also continuing your education?

I've been taking classes at Cleveland State University, which include organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics. After my first year in the ICU, I was eligible to take and passed the exam to become a critical care registered nurse (CCRN).

One of the greatest benefits of the nursing profession is the encouragement from all to grow as a practitioner through further education. At an institution such as the Cleveland Clinic, the opportunities to pursue further education is made easily accessible to all who desire professional growth. Keeping the mindset of continual growth through education through additional classes keeps my critical thinking sharp and offers new perspectives for patient decision making.

What's a key thing you learned from college lacrosse about successful teamwork — that's also useful for health care teams?

I believe that all aspects of professional and personal life can be directly related to athletics. Being able to cooperatively work in a group setting towards a common goal with a multitude of people with various backgrounds, beliefs, educations, ethnic makeups, and social groups is an aspect of teamwork that I learned from my time as a lacrosse student-athlete at Nazareth College. This was never more clear than my time in Abu Dhabi where language barriers, as well as cultural, religious, and ethnic divides, were able to be overcome as a team for the benefit of the patient.