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Western Graduate Travels to the Pandemic Epicenter

Originally from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, Jacob Stodola has since made La Crosse his home. Stodola attended Western and graduated with a Nursing degree in 2018 and completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2020—an exciting time to be a healthcare worker! Immediately after school, he secured an impressive job at Gundersen Healthcare System.


Stodola was already well-accustomed to fast-paced stress as a nurse on the Cardiopulmonary unit at Gundersen’s main campus in La Crosse. He would care for patients with cardiac disease at all phases: post-open-heart surgery, post-thoracotomy, pace-makers, pre-and post-angiography, post-cardiothoracic surgery, and those suffering congestive heart failure and COPD. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the furloughing of staff at Gundersen, Stodola decided to join the frontlines in New York—a city in desperate need of registered nurses with just such a background. Stodola was stationed at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.


Stodola joined the team in April at the height of the pandemic. At that time, 95 percent of Jacobi’s patients were COVID-related while having a nurse-to-patient ratio of eleven to one. Before COVID, the typical ratio was six to one. A nurse with good instincts, he hit the ground effectively and efficiently with very little hospital orientation. At this time, Jacobi was primarily staffed by travel and military nurses from all over the country. Because the intensive care units (ICU) were at max capacity, almost every unit in the hospital contained ICU-level patients. Stodola is gaining a priceless amount of experience during his time in the Bronx. He’s learning different technical and interpersonal skills while gaining strategic efficiencies employed by experienced healthcare professionals. Upon leaving the hospital after each fast-paced 13-hour shift, the din of neighborhood cheers would lift their spirits and assure them their work is essential and appreciated.


As summer progresses, the hospital census, too, declines. Travel and military medical professionals are starting to return home, and it feels as though a new normal is approaching, none too soon. At the time of publishing, Stodola is still working on a cardiac step-down unit and is very happy that he chose such an essential and meaningful profession. Nursing is gratifying and exciting—a career that always offers daily challenges. Stodola plans to stay in New York through August. When he finally arrives at home, he plans to look for a permanent position in an intensive care unit in the Midwest.


A true Midwest native, Stodola loves spending time outdoors hiking, running, and biking on La Crosse’s enviable trail system and topography. Keeping it in the family, he has younger twin brothers attending school in Madison, Wis. They are also planning on a medical career, perhaps because of their inspiring, smart, driven, and overall impressive older brother—the living definition of “role model” and “cool in a crisis.”