Stories of Resilience: Jilian Bianchi ’09 Serves on COVID-19 Intubation Team as Nurse Anesthetist

May 7, 2020
By: Kristen O'Reilly

Jilian (Parzych) Bianchi ’09 works at Virginia Hospital Center as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), providing anesthesia care and managing patients clinically while they undergo surgery. She takes care of both surgical and obstetric (labor and delivery) patients.  Her anesthesia team of CRNAs and anesthesiologists also serve as the COVID intubation team and code blue team for the hospital.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the speed with which I need to make clinical decisions and implement a plan of action to fix problems that arise during an anesthetic. The time between thinking and action is usually mere seconds. This is challenging, but my anesthesia training and work experience have prepared me to deal with stressful situations.

  1. What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to use my skills to bring a patient through an anesthetic safely and with minimal pain. It feels like scientific ‘magic’ sometimes.

  1. What have you learned as you treat more and more COVID-19 patients?

I practiced as an ICU nurse for four years before going to graduate school for anesthesia and I have never seen an ICU the way ours is today. The amount of PPE (personal protective equipment) people need to wear, the number of patients critically ill with the same disease filling the unit, and the atmosphere of heightened awareness is unlike anything I think the majority of currently practicing healthcare providers have ever experienced.

  1. How are you balancing your job duties and your family life?

I have a 9-month-old and my husband works full time from home, so I cluster my hours for the week into one 24-hour in-house call shift. My team has reduced hours for now because most elective surgeries are being postponed. When I’m home, I’m a full-time mom. My husband watches our son on the day that I work and we switch off on the weekends so we each have time to go for runs or sleep in. Having a supportive and equal partnership has been so crucial for us.

  1. What would you like to tell others who aren’t in the medical profession about what you are experiencing?

That this is not a drill. Patients in their 20s and 30s end up on ventilators, so you’re not immune to the worst effects if you are a young person. Follow social distancing guidelines, even if you’re outside exercising. Being outside doesn’t fully protect you. You still need to maintain your distance from others.

Also, please advocate for and encourage your parents and older people in your families to stay home. Help them with grocery delivery if they can’t use a computer, safely pick up that one thing at the store they might really need. Every avoided exposure counts for the more at-risk population!

  1. How do you deal with the stress?

I run on the weekends and during my son’s naps. I also try to video chat with my parents and friends when I can.

  1. What did you learn at Worcester State that helps you today?

Worcester State prepared me to accept challenges head-on and I felt supported in my journey to pursue whatever type of nursing I wanted to. I had a preceptorship in the ICU during my senior year that sparked my interest in taking care of critically ill patients.

Also, I learned how to be a distance runner at Worcester State and was an athlete on the cross country and track teams. The love for distance running that I developed while at Worcester State is definitely helping me cope during this stressful time

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