Poet Mattie Stepanek once wrote, “Unity is strength ... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” Her words have inspired many to come together to face challenges both great and small. As a nurse on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and a semi-professional athlete, Natalie Markuson knows firsthand the value of being part of a strong, cohesive team.
Natalie has been a nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital for more than four years, but before her career in health care, she competed in two World Cup tournaments on the Mexico women’s national soccer team.
She received this opportunity during her freshman year at the University of San Diego, where she played for the school’s soccer team. As a citizen of both the United States and Mexico, Natalie qualified to go for the team when they held tryouts in San Diego. She was proud to make the team and went to Germany to compete in the under-20 age group World Cup in 2010. One year later, she was eligible for the full team and found herself back in Germany, competing on the biggest stage of her life.
“I can only describe the experience as surreal. Being on the field in these huge, beautiful stadiums with 40,000 fans and standing with your teammates as the national anthems play was truly unforgettable,” recalls Natalie.
She will always remember how it felt to be so supported by the fans around the world and her family. Most important, though, was the connection she felt with her fellow teammates.
“Getting to play against teams like the U.S., Great Britain and Japan, it really makes you rely on each other. There’s nothing quite like being part of a strong, unified team,” says Natalie.
When Natalie traded in her soccer jersey for nurse’s scrubs, she had no idea that she would once again find herself a part of international current events.
At Sharp Grossmont, Natalie is currently working on a team dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The team, known as “The Innovations Unit,” embraced the challenge to face the unknown head-on. Though treating COVID-19 can be daunting, the team has found strength in each other.
“You can’t fight the coronavirus alone,” Natalie says. “Just like with sports, what’s important is how a team functions together. We check to make sure each other’s personal protective equipment is on properly, we have great communication and support from our managers, and we have each other’s backs when things get especially tough.”
Natalie is proud to be on this unit with her husband Cody, who is also a nurse.
“It’s really special to be able to work together,” she says. “Only a fellow nurse understands the unique pressures we face, especially when we’re treating something so unknown and in the public spotlight. It’s nice to have someone to lean on who knows exactly what you’re going through.”
Natalie has seen firsthand the impact the coronavirus has on patients and their families. She explains that with the visitor restrictions put in place to keep everyone safe, it is more important now than ever to be there to not only treat the illness, but also to be a source of comfort for patients.
“Being able to touch people’s lives — whether it’s helping them get better or being there to squeeze their hand when they’re scared — that’s what nursing is all about,” Natalie explains. “There are moments that warm your heart and others that leave you speechless. I couldn’t have picked a better career.”
While being on a team dedicated to treating the largest global health crisis in recent history can be strenuous, Natalie finds strength and optimism from the support of her husband, her co-workers and the community.
“I believe there is a season for everything in our lives and we will get through this. We will learn to come together to not only conquer this challenge, but also become stronger and more united than ever,” she says.
For the news media: To talk with Natalie Markuson for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.