Sometime in the next few weeks, UCF Assistant Professor of Nursing Frank Guido-Sanz will have 12 hours to drop everything, grab his jump bag and travel to wherever he’s deployed as a member of the National Disaster Medical System. Guido-Sanz, a lead on the NDMS’ Trauma and Critical Care Team, serves the most vulnerable patients in times of crisis, including past deployments during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
“This is an invisible enemy; you don’t know who has been exposed. But this is my commitment of service.” — Frank Guido-Sanz, UCF assistant professor of nursing
This time the emergency is the COVID-19 pandemic, and the circumstances he’ll face are drastically different than the natural disasters he’s worked through before. Treating patients for a novel biohazard in what will potentially be one of the worst outbreaks in the country comes with a lot of uncertainty, but one thing that’s sure is he’s ready.
“I feel like I should be where I am most needed,” says Guido-Sanz, a nurse practitioner in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. “With a natural disaster you can physically see the impact. This is an invisible enemy; you don’t know who has been exposed. But this is my commitment of service.”
During the week, Guido-Sanz teaches in Orlando, but on Fridays he travels to Jackson Memorial, the third-largest hospital in the United States, to care for critically ill patients during the weekend. Working in one of the most sensitive areas in the hospital requires him to wear full-body personal protective equipment, including a head cap, an N95 respirator, surgical mask, face shield and a barrier coat, all of which take a toll on more than the physical body.
“You feel very protected, but you also feel very isolated from each other. Emotionally it is a little bit distressing,” Guido-Sanz says. “Many of my colleagues and I are Hispanic and culturally we’re used to hugging each other as a greeting at the start of our shifts. Now we can’t do that. It really does change the tone of your shift.”
But he acknowledges patients across the nation — both those infected with and clear of COVID-19 — are experiencing isolation on a deeper level. It’s something he, working in a profession centered around compassion and support, never imagined would happen to patients in his care and at their most difficult moments.
“People don’t even have the chance to be at their loved ones’ bedside and say goodbye. It’s heartbreaking,” he says. “We’re seeing now what really matters: appreciating the time you have with the people in your life.”
Even when there isn’t a pandemic, Guido-Sanz is always checking on and providing guidance to former students in the field. Now he stays in touch with local alums to see if they have the supplies and support they need, or if they have questions about the care of patients affected by the virus.
“He’s so gifted at what he does, he’s truly a great teacher,” says Elizabeth Santana ’18MSN, a nurse practitioner at an Orlando hospital and an adjunct for one of Guido-Sanz’s lab. “It takes a special person to make you feel at ease.”
“Even for non-medical issues, I know he’ll give me solid advice with nothing but heart and good intent.”
— Elizabeth Santana ’18MSN
He’s even helped Santana when her husband’s grandmother was recently in a hospital overseas. After reviewing a picture of her in-law’s monitor, she ran through a series of possible diagnoses and treatments but felt she needed the input of the person she considers a level-headed brother and mentor.
“When it’s something so personal to you sometimes you really can’t think,” Santana says. “I reached out to see if I was missing anything and he provided confirmation my thoughts were correct. He’s always available. Even for non-medical issues, I know he’ll give me solid advice with nothing but heart and good intent.”
As a dedicated teacher, Guido-Sanz maintains close relationships with his small classes of students. Even when UCF’s courses transitioned to online for the Spring 2020 semester due to the pandemic, he remained connected to his 16 Diagnostic Reasoning and Skills students, many of whom are nurse practitioners pursuing adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner certificates to advance their skills.
“He’s a veteran in this arena and a great resource for almost anything.”
— Fameisha Williams ’06 ’11MSN ’18DNP
“He’s been a mentor. Not only in class, but if I have any questions related to the field I can get help. I can text him any time,” says Fameisha Williams ’06 ’11MSN ’18DNP, a nurse practitioner in a cardiovascular surgery unit at a local hospital. “He has so many years of acute care experience. He’s a veteran in this arena and a great resource for almost anything.”
Williams graduated this spring with the acute care certificate from UCF and served as an adjunct for Guido-Sanz’s Diagnostic Reasoning and Skills lab section of the course, which she completed during a prior semester.
“I know Dr. Guido-Sanz can be called to deployment for the NDMS at any time and it wouldn’t be a disruption to the course, especially since it’s [mainly] online,” Williams says. Typical NDMS deployments last 14 to 21 days, but for COVID-19, service has been extended to 28 days, with 14 in the field and 14 in quarantine.
Although the coronavirus has impacted the essential in-person functions of the nursing courses, most students recognize the importance of having the opportunity to learn and practice these psychomotor skills in the future.
“I think about the big picture and I know it’s worth it to help where people are most in need.” — Frank Guido-Sanz
“My students would let me know they miss our class,” Guido-Sanz says. “We were used to working together all day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but we tried to keep them engaged.”
With his deployment looming in the coming weeks, it’s likely Guido-Sanz may have to serve for the NDMS during the summer semesters. In the meantime, he stays busy in the ICU and preparing his courses for the best online learning experience he can provide.
“My department chair Maureen Covelli and program director Christopher Blackwell ’00 ’01MSN ’05PhD appreciate my service and are always willing to step in with my classes when I’m deployed,” he says. “I have incredible colleagues who are always so supportive. I feel bad sometimes when I deploy, but I think about the big picture and know it’s worth it to help where people are most in need.”