Heroes of Burlington County: a profile of DeaLana Woods

A peek inside the chaotic and challenging life of a frontline worker during a pandemic


Jadaa Cruz

“DeaLana Woods is a Hainesport native who travels to New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center as a Licensed Practical Nurse.”

Jadaa Cruz, News Writer

They now call us…soldiers, by saying we are working the frontlines,” said DeaLana Woods, a healthcare worker from New Jersey. “But the difference between an actual soldier and us is…that we haven’t been equipped with the things that we need. We are not sending soldiers on the battlefield without guns, without tanks…and we feel left alone…because our country is not providing what we need for this pandemic.” 

Woods is a Hainesport native who travels to New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She recently shared her personal experience as an essential front line worker during the deadly COVID pandemic. 

Due to the fatal virus, Woods’ daily routine as an LPN has changed to help ensure the safety for herself and others in the hospital. She enters the building in her normal clothes, but then gets dressed in an extensive uniform. 

“[I] put on my first layer of the Personal Protective Equipment,” stated Woods. “[which is] a regular mask, goggles, a hair bonnet, and shoe covers…and that’s what I wear all day.” 

However, the PPE increases once Woods is in a room with a COVID patient. “[The] second layer,” Woods describes, “is [an] N95 mask… a gown… and a face shield.” The protective attire is necessary because, according to Woods, “…[you] do not want to take [COVID] home.”

The pandemic has altered a typical shift for Woods. “I would normally work in an out-patient clinic setting, but now I work in the hospital on COVID units.” 

In addition to the change of her working atmosphere, Woods works twelve-hours, three days a week, versus her usual eight-hour shift. She sums up her new experience as “a big change.”

As a nurse during the pandemic, Woods’s biggest concern is “coming home with COVID.” Every day, she wonders the same question: “How am I going to prevent this from infecting me…and then my family? Because if I get it…what am I going to do?” 

As a result of her first-hand experience on the front lines, she learned the “importance of handwashing, the importance of not touching [her] face…not touching [her] nose, [her] mouth, [her] eyes—the importance of being covered—wearing…goggles, and face shields, and masks,” lessons with which many of us continue to struggle. The politicalization of mask-wearing has made the work of frontline workers arguably more difficult.

Even though Woods saw the significance of various measures to protect herself and her patients, she admitted that her experience was “very scary”, especially “in the beginning [of the pandemic] because of the lack of information about COVID.” 

However, she stated, “…when you’re in the middle of [the pandemic]…you just do the work—you just do what you have to do…”

Since the beginning of March, Woods has encountered hundreds of patients from different backgrounds that were diagnosed with the deadly disease. Nonetheless, the most traumatic thing she witnessed was how COVID was affecting the Black community. 

“The scariest [thing I saw] was a young, [black], thirty-five-year-old police officer—muscles everywhere—typical cop-looking person—and you’re like ‘how on Earth is this thirty-five year old so ill-affected?” Woods said. “He could barely get up to walk to the bathroom—I had to assist him to go to the bathroom. Still to this day, I remember his name—I remember everything about him—but to see a young, black man that strong…barley [breathing]—and was scarred for his life was the most traumatizing experience I had with a patient.”

Since working from the start of the pandemic, the LPN said she wouldn’t change any safety procedures because it helped ensure her protection. 

“I am very meticulous,” she said, “When I return home from work, I wipe all my doorknobs down and immediately put my clothes in the washing machine.”

Woods announced that she is hesitant to take the vaccine, and that it would likely be a few months before she receives it. The reason for Woods’s hesitation is the effects of the virus in the future. 

“How are the side-effects going to affect people in 6-12 months,” she questioned. “So, for that reason, I am going to wait.”

With the news of the vaccine, and a hopefully slowdown of new cases, Woods is cautiously optimistic.

 “[Since]… the vaccine is available…more and more people will be getting [vaccinated]—we are going to be getting closer and closer to…herd immunity… meaning there is going to be enough people with the vaccine to kind of protect everybody,” she said. “But that’s not going to happen until maybe…the end of this year…With that being the case, my strongest recommendation is that people need to continue to wear their masks, continue staying six feet away from people who are not apart of [their] immediate household, to continue to wash [their] hands regularly—keep doing the mitigating factors[to help keep] people from getting COVID.”