The New Norm

May 18-24, 2020

By Cait Smith


On the frontlines


As Arkansans adjusts to the new normal of face masks, gloves and temperature checks, it is safe to say we understand this larger than life situation. We understand that we need to be following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safety guidelines to flatten the curve. In addition to practicing health protocols, we are finding ways to remain positive by taking advantage of free time or taking a daily inventory. Importantly, we are appreciative of all the essential workers on the frontlines – healthcare employees, first responders, grocery clerks and deliverers, etc. – providing us with necessary care. 


I, myself, was once an essential worker (patient care technician) for a hospital, so I understand how important it is to show these specific workers that we care for them. Workers like UA Little Rock alumnus Mike Stramiello, BSN, RN, currently serving as a nurse at Saline Memorial Hospital let me know the support is appreciated on his end. “To know that [Arkansas] is following CDC’s safety precautions is a big help on our end as nurses. We all understand these are trying times but when you follow the rules it helps us out. It shows us that you care about yourself, your family, and health care workers,” he said. 


Since the beginning of this pandemic, there has been constant talk from healthcare workers about what to do and what not to do to protect yourself. However, it dawned on me that no one has thought to ask these workers how they are feeling about the pandemic personally. Stramiello shed some light on the matter. “When it first started, I definitely was more isolated from friends and family. I went weeks when I only saw my coworkers then I would go home. It was pretty isolating,” he said. 


Like most health care workers, the coronavirus caught him off guard. “It was new. We all had to figure out how to handle it. We had to make sure we were taking proper care ourselves and using our personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly.” And let me tell you, dressing and undressing yourself in and out of PPE is no joke. Let’s just say it gets to be extremely hot on top of scrubs. So, I kindly thank Stramiello and other workers who are wearing this equipment daily to take care of patients. 


During this “quarantine funk” as I like to call it, I’m staying busy with a book or journal in my hand to pass the time. To keep his spirits alive, Stramiello is looking on the bright side. “I will go for a run or I’ll grab my guitar and play music. I also enjoy being lazy on the couch and binge movies,” he said. 


Needless to say, I’m happy to hear that Stramiello has managed to remain happy and full of life as an essential worker on the frontlines.   


  • Mike Stramiello, BSN, RN
    Mike Stramiello, BSN, RN
  • Cait Smith
    Cait Smith