Nursing Alumna Lara Stahl Battles COVID-19 on Two Fronts

Group photo of the Air Force Reserve unit
Group photo of the Air Force Reserve unit at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx

Alumna Lara Stahl, nursing class of 2004, is battling COVID-19 on two fronts: as a regional clinical operations director and family nurse practitioner for Premise Health in Fort Worth, Texas and as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, serving as a clinical nurse. 

Both Stahl’s civilian and military roles have been wrapped around fighting COVID-19 for the past couple of months. In late February, Stahl was asked to join the corporate COVID-19 clinical response team for Premise Health. Her team had the enormous task of virtually providing care through their many wellness centers across the United States. Stahl was hard at work on that project before she was deployed with the Air Force Reserves on April 5 to support the COVID-19 response in New York City, as the pandemic was overwhelming the community and city hospital system.

Stahl’s role has been to act as a clinical nurse at the Jacobi Medical Center, a city hospital in the Bronx. “Since coming here, I have been with the people of my reserve unit 24/7, and I have realized how noble a cause our reserve forces are taking on with this COVID-19 response. We all left our families and jobs to come here to serve our country in a way that has never been done by the Air Force Reserve,” Stahl explained.

A selfie of Lara Stahl after wearing PPE for 12 hours
Stahl said, “My hair looks pretty crazy, but that’s what it does after being in so much PPE for 12 hours.”

“It isn’t easy, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it was going to be, because of who I’m with. Our team supports each other, we talk about our difficult days with the patients—sometimes feeling helpless because it is such a devastating illness. But my takeaway is that I am more committed to my job as an Air Force Reservist than ever. I really believe in the cause.”

Stahl’s unit has joined thousands of Navy, Air Force and Army doctors and nurses and medics supporting New York City COVID-19 patients. Teams are supplementing staff there that have become ill or called out sick, as well as manning the convention center which has been turned into a large military hospital. Stahl said the charge nurse at her unit almost cried as she was so thankful for the help.

Stahl spent four years in the U.S. Army as a medic and started at Belmont just a few months after she got out, using her G.I. Bill to become a registered nurse. “I tend to get a little bit emotional when I talk about Belmont because I still keep in touch with almost all of my nursing professors there, and I am just so thankful for the experiences, friendships and partnership they gave me from day one,” she said.

Stahl said her Belmont education well-prepared her for her job today, as faculty like Dr. Martha Buckner emphasized a strong focus on quality. As Stahl explained, “that is quality of care, the quality of your presence in the room with your patients, how you’re looking at them, how you’re thinking about your own perspective and how you’re applying that to the way that you provide your care.”

Stahl in scrubs holding a sign that reads "DNR DNI"
Stahl said, “I approached the chief nurse at the hospital to start a new process to identify patients that are DNR/DNI. This helps the team know what to do when a patient stops breathing. She approved and we started this the same day.”

She said the focus on quality has really stuck with her throughout her careers as both a nurse and as a nurse practitioner, and she is passionate about staying quality-focused, especially now that she is walking into rooms where her patients have COVID-19.

“At Belmont, they really teach you how to look at a patient holistically.” She said, “You know that you are walking into the line of fire. But when you look at your patient in a holistic way, you look in their eyes, you hear their story and you recognize that you can be there to help them with your nursing skills or your faith or sometimes even just your presence. You know you’re in the exact place you’re meant to be, equipped with all the right experiences to provide that help.”