Maggie Rawlins Left Modeling to Return to Nursing When the COVID-19 Pandemic Hit

She traveled to New York City from her hometown of Charleston to lend a hand during the outbreak.

Maggie Rawlins, RN, may have made a name for herself in the modeling industry, but now she's making her biggest statement outside of the world of fashion. The 27-year-old nurse-turned-model returned to her career in health care to step up when COVID-19 hit—and she's proof that it's never too late to give back to your community.

Rawlins earned her nursing degree in Charlotte, North Carolina, but shortly after starting her first job at The Medical University of South Carolina in the hematology-oncology ward, she was scouted on social media by a modeling agency. For four years, she worked with IMG Models and pressed pause on her work as a nurse, but always kept up with her licensing. "Growing up, my mom had breast cancer a couple of times, and it was always the nurses that kind of turned this really, you know, scary situation into something manageable," she says. "And I think that has kind of led me back to keep up with my license and to continue working when I can."

So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, she saw that an opportunity to put her training to good use. Originally, Rawlins planned on helping out in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, but after seeing how hard other places were being impacted by the virus, she switched her decision and headed for the epicenter of the pandemic: New York City. "If you turn on the news, you can see that there is a need in New York right now," Rawlins tells Health. "They really got hit hard."

After applying to a few staffing agencies, Rawlins was placed at a hospital in Queens, New York where she's worked in a skilled nursing facility with COVID-19 positive patients, most of whom are in the process of recovering from the disease. "I don't think my experience has been as intense as some of these people who have been working in the ICU or the ER, kind of, you know, getting the brunt of it all," she says.

That said, she has still encountered some unexpected obstacles in caring for COVID-19 patients. "Not only are they not feeling well, but then they walk in here and there’s these people just masked up and gowned up and you can’t read their body language or communicate other than with your words," she says. "There has been language barriers, things like that that you’ve had to figure out. That’s kind of what has been inspiring me, just the resilience of patients." To help bridge those language barriers, Rawlins says she's been able to show kindness through "an extra pat on the shoulder" and "taking the time to sit and explain what's going on."

Rawlins says that in New York, she's been able to work with nurses and doctors who have flown in from across the country to help out with the outbreak in the city. Their continued dedication to helping others and to risking their lives for the greater good inspires her to keep going through it all. "We're all in this together," she says. "It doesn't matter your race, your religion, your age, we're all on the same team."

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