Away from hospital, East Bay nurses volunteer with homeless

Two Bay Area nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are finding time to help others beyond their work in  the hospital.

On Wednesday during their time off from the John Muir Medical Center in Concord, they visited people who are homeless to provide them with necessities.

Stephanie Brady is carrying a heavy load, taking boxes of donated items to a homeless encampment in Martinez, with the help of Ashley Roger.

Both women are nurses in the COVID unit at John Muir.

They say administering care and compassion from the bedside to the homeless in the form of food, clothing and other items to prevent the spread of COVID-19  is an extension of their caring for patients.

"I have to help those around me during a pandemic. This is even more important. These people need our help more than ever," said Brady. 

The donations come from co-workers, friends and family. Brady started her homeless outreach five years ago and distributes what she collects twice a year.

This is Roger's first time out distributing to people in need.

"It could be me. It could be my family. We're lucky to have a career and stability," Roger said.

The outreach is a way to cope with the stress of caring for COVID patients, the nurses said.

The number of COVID patients at John Muir has tripled since the end of November and  the hospital intensive care unit is 85% full but that number fluctuates, according to a spokesman. The hospital has stayed ahead of by creating more bed capacity to safely care for all patients, the spokesperson said.

"When these surges happen, it's very scary for us," said Brady. "We're working a lot of hours."

Roger started Monday working in a unit added to deal with the COVID surge, "I'm a little scared at how many more patients we're going to have," she said. 

There is fear of becoming infected but empowerment through comradery and support among her co-workers, according to Brady.

"Put it all out there when you go to work," said Brady, "People have a false sense that we're rounding third but we're not barely to second base. We all have to hunker down."  

Anyone wishing to help can email Stephanie Brady: