Sisters — Both Nurses — Support Patients and Each Other During COVID-19

Stronger TogetherThe Gambito Sisters

For 33-year old Junerose Gambito and her sister, 32-year-old Sheikha (Shae) Gambito, nursing is both a family tradition—their parents are nurses—and a calling. Junerose began her career as a certified care technician (CCT) 13 years ago at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick (RWJUH) and fell in love with her job. A year after her sister, Shae also started as a CCT at the hospital. Today, both certified nurses and still at RWJUH, the sisters work side by side on the 2-Core floor, a step-down unit for open heart surgery patients.

The Gambito sisters work together to support patients -- and each otherOne of the many things Junerose loves about her career is the opportunity it offers to make a profound difference in patients’ lives. “It’s not even the big lifesaving moments,” she says. “It’s the small moments, like washing my patients’ hair or shaving their faces. There are little things you can do to improve someone’s day—even just being in the room and having an extra conversation with them can make a difference.”

Shae echoes those sentiments. “We were put on this earth to be nurses,” she says. “I feel in my heart that it’s our duty to take care of people.”

The World Changes

Before the pandemic, finding extra time to brighten patients’ days was easier. After the sisters’ post-surgical floor was converted to a COVID-19 unit, they found it more challenging to spend time with patients. And with visitor restrictions in place, patients were isolated from their families, something that really weighed on both Junerose and Shae.

“Working side by side with my sister is such a blessing,” says Junerose. “I can talk to her whenever I’m having a hard day or feeling overwhelmed. She and our parents are there for me, and that makes all the difference. So I just can’t imagine not being able to reach out and talk to my family.”

Junerose and Shae did their best to fill the void for patients not able to physically connect with loved ones by helping them stay in touch using one of the hospital’s iPads. Seeing each other on video gives both families and patients more peace of mind than simply talking on the phone.

The Gambito sisters try to be there for patients during the good moments and the bad, comforting and supporting them, sometimes in their darkest hours. For both sisters, the best moments are when they can show a family through FaceTime that their loved one is doing better, and when their patients recover and can go home.

“Those are some of the brightest times we’ve had amidst all this chaos,” says Junerose. “Recently, we’ve been able to celebrate more and more COVID-19 patients going home to their families. We all love seeing that.”