By Lisa Rozner

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thursday is National Nurses Day, kicking off a week recognizing the men and women who have been on the front lines of the COVID crisis for more than a year.

Cases may be down, but the trauma stays with them.

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On Thursday, they received gestures showing they’re not alone.

From nurses coming to work at Mount Sinai on the Upper East Side to Stony Brook Hospital in Suffolk County…

“They’re the stars of our organization, the stars of our county,” said Carolyn Santora, chief nursing officer and chief of regulatory affairs at Stony Brook University Hospital.

A red carpet was rolled out for the heroes whose dedication got our region through the darkest days of the pandemic.


“I remember working four weeks straight, every day,” said Justin Ngai, a nursing supervisor at Hackensack University Medical Center.

At home, he was isolated in his family’s basement, worried he could give COVID to his dad, a cancer survivor.

But even though he was only a nurse for a year, Ngai chose to work 12-hour days.

“We were Facetiming with loved ones ’cause visitation wasn’t allowed, holding their hand when no one else was there,” he told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

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At Stony Brook, nurses made posters so they knew the patients deeper than their illnesses.

Most hospitals now offer a variety of mental health programs for nurses experiencing PTSD.

The memories of patients lost can take a toll.

“Yes, it does because we still have a few patients who are still battling, fighting with COVID,” said Marlene Thompson, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center.


FDNY members helped the nonprofit Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes hand out a month’s worth of masks, face shields and sanitizer so nurses at Montefiore have extra protection outside of work, too.

“Thank you. We know how hard you work. We know that it’s a lonely situation where people don’t understand the burden that you have,” said Rhonda Shearer, founder of Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes.

But even a hug in a post-vaccinated world goes a long way.

“I feel appreciated today,” said Mary Fitzgerald, a nurse at Montefiore.

Whether it’s cards sent to nurses at Lincoln Hospital or towels proudly reading “Nurse” to Carter in Harlem, the hope is they feel appreciated every day.

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You may remember last year at 7 p.m. every night, there would be an applause out residents’ windows for health care workers. Thursday night, at the same time, some hospitals will hold a special ceremony for nurses.