#CeaselessDevotion: Diane Schrom ’08
At a time when COVID-19 has quarantined most people in their homes or local communities, Diane Schrom ’08 has found a way to pair her interest in travel with her deep desire to make a difference in people’s daily lives. As a travel nurse combatting COVID-19, she has worked in hospitals in Pittsburgh, New York City, her hometown of York, PA, and is currently stationed in Guam.
“It was more difficult in the beginning [of the pandemic] because we were just trying to figure out how to deal with the virus and how to protect ourselves, having enough PPE (personal protective equipment),” says Schrom. “If you can’t protect yourself, how can you protect your patients?”
“Even if you’re not a COVID patient,” she says, “it is really hard to be a patient right now, and I think sometimes we lose sight of that, and we just have to recognize that we are all in this together. I just wish people would come together and recognize that we still have to fight this even if we have the vaccine now. There’s still so much that we don’t know.”
While she finds great fulfillment in her current work, Schrom did not immediately pursue a career in nursing after leaving Mercersburg. She graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor’s in biochemistry and began work in the research field. Soon, though, she realized she wanted to have more of a day-to-day impact on people, so she went back to school for nursing at the University of Pittsburgh and served in the critical care ICU at West Penn Hospital. As the pandemic took hold in the U.S., she knew there was more she could do for patients if she began to travel: “If I can use my skills and my expertise to help people who really need it, I’m going to do it.”
She worked in the Bronx at St. Barnabas Hospital during the height of the pandemic and took on a travel assignment in her hometown of York, PA, at WellSpan York Hospital after that. Now in Guam, she works night shifts three to four days a week at Guam Memorial. While night shifts are challenging, Schrom says it allows her to stay on Eastern time, and since her wife, Emily, a software engineer working remotely in Guam for an East Coast company, also works nights, they both are able to stay in touch more easily with friends and family from home.
To combat the stress of her job, Schrom says she’s focusing on “enjoying the place that I’m in and the moment that I’m in. I’m very much a planner, and I end up planning the next step and forgetting that I’m in this place. So, I’ve just been trying to experience Guam in its entirety.” She’s also reviving a former interest in scuba diving. “COVID is not underwater, that I know of,” she jokes.
As for where she heads after her assignment in Guam concludes this spring, she is leaving that open for now. “Everything with COVID is kind of last-minute because you don’t know where the greatest need is, so you just have to be really flexible,” Schrom says. “Being able to travel and work and be able to do something that I enjoy is like a dream for me. The nice thing is that health care is pretty similar everywhere you go.”
In a way, being open to the possibilities is similar to the advice she would give to current students: “Take all the opportunities you can because Mercersburg is such a special place, and you’re never going to have an experience like that again. When you get older, you have different priorities, but the age that you are [at Mercersburg] and the responsibilities that you have, you just get to focus on learning and trying all these new things, and I think that’s important. I can’t imagine being a student right now. It has to be so difficult with COVID and the uncertainties and worry about what’s next. I just wish them the best, and just remind everyone to take one day at a time.”
During her time as a student, Schrom was a prefect in Tippetts Hall, played soccer all four years, played percussion in the Concert Band, traveled to Austria and Germany through Mercersburg’s travel program, participated in Stony Batter Players, and took photos for the Mercersburg News.
Although Schrom’s job takes her to different places now, she continues to stay connected to the Academy. She has served as a camp counselor for Mercersburg Summer Programs, and last spring, she participated in Mercersburg’s WeSpeak program, celebrating 50 years of coeducation at the Academy. While the program was initially planned as an in-person experience, it pivoted to virtual as the pandemic took hold. Schrom was the opening WeSpeak presenter, and her talk, “Bias and Inequality Toward the LGBTQ Community in Health Care,” can be accessed here.
As she thinks about the greater Mercersburg community, she says she recognizes a similar set of core values among everyone: “Mercersburg alumni and faculty have a lot of creativity and drive to do better in the world. That’s something that you just acquire from the atmosphere: just wanting to do better because everyone is trying to do their best and impart that on you. It is very infectious.”
Schrom feels strongly that she is not alone in her desire to get out there and make a difference: “There are so many members of the Mercersburg community who are doing really good work and helping a lot of people fight this virus and helping people in need. Even students! I’m always impressed by everything the students are doing. I’m just one of many, and I’m happy to help and will continue to travel and help people in need and learn as much as I can and do whatever I can, and hopefully, this whole COVID thing will be over sooner than we anticipate.”