Meet Ilana: Jewish Nurse of the Week

by Allison Friedman / April 29, 2020

Get to know this fabulous nurse working on the front-lines of COVID-19 at Georgetown University Hospital. When she’s not saving lives, you might find her enjoying her new Disney+ account, social distance painting outside, or dreaming of the Dupont Farmers Market’s glory days. Meet Ilana Lupovitch and then let her know how much you appreciate her service right now by expressing your gratitude in the comment section.

Have a suggestion for a Jewish Person of the Week? Email to nominate your friend. colleague, partner, or even yourself!

ilana nurse

Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

Ilana: I’m originally from Chicago, but I had grandparents who lived in DC. I wanted to go to school near my family, but not in Chicago, and wound up at University of Maryland. Of course, soon after I moved to DC, my grandparents ended up moving to Chicago to be near my parents. Since graduating, I have been living in Dupont Circle for four years.

Allie: How did you decide to become a nurse?

Ilana: I started undergrad at University of Maryland as a public health major, but realized I wanted to do something more hands on – so switched to nursing half-way through. I grew up in a family of medical professionals, my dad is a cardiologist and two of his siblings are doctors, two of my mom’s brothers and her dad are doctors, and my brother works in cancer research. I grew up loving healthcare. My dad used to bring home an ultrasound machine and practice on us. It was really cool for us as kids. I initially thought about going to medical school, but realized I wanted something with more patient engagement and felt like nursing would give me that access.

Allie: Where do you currently work as a nurse?

Ilana: I work in adult critical care at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. It’s really crazy right now.

Allie: How did you decide specifically to go into adult critical care?

Ilana: Initially, I wanted to go into pediatrics or labor and delivery, but when I had my labor and delivery rotation, I almost passed out. So I nixed that off my list. I worked at summer camp my whole life, so that’s why I thought pediatrics would be a good fit, but it made me really sad some days. I wound up in adult critical care because I realized I liked to be able to have conversations with my patients – older patients can be really fun to be around. I started in general medicine and worked my way up to critical care.

Allie: How has your job changed since this pandemic hit?

Ilana: They have revamped all the units. My unit shut down and they turned it into a non COVID-19 ICU. I am now working in a different unit that is primarily COVID-19 unit with a mixture of ICU and step-down patients. We try to get people out of the ER more quickly, so we have to turnover things more quickly. I’ve been floating in between units more often. I have some days where I don’t know where I’m going to be needed since some units have more needs depending on the day. I also have to wear a mask all day which is weird.

Allie: What’s it like being a nurse right now?

Ilana: I am grateful I have a job, I was off for Pesach and it was weird to not have much to do. For the most part, my life hasn’t changed because I still go to work, see people, and get to see my friends at work. It’s nice to have social interactions outside of the home. I will say Georgetown Hospital is doing all the right things and taking care of us – we have all the equipment we need. The community has been really helpful.

ilana nurse

Allie: What would it look like for the community to be more helpful to nurses and doctors?

Ilana: Most importantly, stay home. Everyone in the healthcare industry is just so grateful to everyone who has been working hard to shelter in place, because we know how hard it is to stay at home.

Another thing that would be really nice is writing letters and getting gifts for patients. We aren’t allowing any visitors into the hospital so a lot of the patients don’t get to interact with anyone. I think cards would help the patients feel like they are not being forgotten. We have been trying to help patients by tracking down numbers and holding up the phone so they can FaceTime with loved ones. Also, a lot of restaurants have been providing meals and that’s amazing and we are eternally grateful for that. But I do think it would really have a huge impact on patients’ wellbeing to hear from people so they feel less alone.

Allie: Are there a lot of COVID-19 cases at your hospital?

Ilana: We have a total of 200 patients with COVID-19 right now, and we have a total of 400 beds. They are trying to spread the number of cases around the Medstar medical system to help manage the load.

ilana friends

Allie: What are your coping tips right now?

Ilana: For me, what’s been nice is getting to see people get better. I’ve had a few coworkers who got infected, and recovered, and now are safe and back to work. A lot of people are getting better and are able to leave the hospital and that’s always a source of optimism. On my days off, I reach out to my family. Staying social is very important, through group FaceTime-ing with friends and spending a lot of time with my amazing roommate Shira Weissmann. Over Pesach, I tried to ignore my phone and the news and it was really helpful to unplug and not hear all the bad stuff.

Allie: What are some of the shows you have discovered?

Ilana: My brother surprised my parents with a Disney+ account, so I have been using their account to watch a lot of The Marvel movies and shows. I have also been watching the show The Masked Singer and recently discovered Too Hot to Handle on Netflix. Of course there is also Tiger King.

Allie: What is your dream day in DC (pre- or post- coronavirus)?

Ilana: It would be a Sunday. I love going to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. I’d wake up around 10am, head over there and get a Call Your Mother bagel and meander around to different stands. My friends and I would then go to brunch around 12:30 or 1:00pm, maybe at Agora or Mission in Dupont. I would probably hang out at home for a few hours and then head to the Georgetown Waterfront and go to Sequoia for happy hour drinks. The Hive in Foggy Bottom is also fun for happy hour. My roommate Shira and I would just cook something at home for dinner.

Allie: What’s your ideal quarantine day?

Ilana: Doing a social distance hang out with friends. The other day, we went to an outdoor area and did social distance painting with our friends who live down the street. We all brought canvases to paint and set them up six-feet apart from one another, put on music, and it was really fun. I have a lot of friends with kids so I’ll FaceTime them, and FaceTime my parents. I have been doing takeout from local businesses, I really like Asia 54 and Soupergirl.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to celebrate shabbat?

Ilana: Normally, on Friday nights I would do potluck dinners with friends. On Saturdays, I would usually try to go to services at Kesher Israel. Then we’d do lunch and if it’s nice outside we’ll go for a walk, read outside, or go to the pool. In the evening, my roommate and I would do Havdalah.

Right now, it’s a little different, but I still put my phone away. My roommate and I do dinner and kiddush on Friday. Saturday I wake up late, we’ll go on a long walk with our upstairs neighbor Dena and her dog (they are a part of our “quarantine pod”). Her dog is an English Cream Golden Retriever named Felix. He’s so cute, happy, and floppy and has been a great stress reliever for me. Then we’ll do lunch, read, take a nap, and do Havdalah and something chill at home. We’ve been trying to make Shabbat feel as normal as possible.

ilana felix dog

Felix the dog!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ilana: There is always something more meaningful than just what’s on the surface.

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