How exactly does a full-time nurse also train to become an Olympian, especially during a pandemic?
Just ask Nina Roth. She’s headed to Beijing in a matter of weeks where she’ll perform on the USA Curling Team. Roth says juggling her job and training hasn’t been easy, all the while caring for her two-year-old, but she chose to stick with nursing instead of throwing in the towel.
As a nurse and supervisor at Select Specialty Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, Roth works three 12-hour shifts a week. She’s been at the same facility for nine years, which is known for taking patients with severe illness due to COVID-19.
“They come to us before they go to a long-term care facility,” said Roth.
At a time when many of her colleagues were retiring early or leaving the field altogether due to burnout and safety concerns, she felt like she had no choice but to keep going.
“I really don’t want to slow down,” she said. “I’m very much needed at my hospital, and I love what I do. And even though it’s very hard, I know that especially now I have an ability, and I have the training to be on the floor. I need to be there for my patients and for my hospital.”
When it comes to training, she has to make time where she can. On the days when she works a 12-hour shift, she will usually come home and do 20 minutes of cardio or strength training before calling it a night.
“Basically, whatever I can bear before I need to pass out and go to sleep,” Roth said.
On her days off, she wakes up at 6:30 AM to get her workout in before her son Nolan wakes up. Then they head to the park for some fun outside, or what you might call multi-tasking-training.
“I try to be as active with him as possible and wear him out before I take him to Grandma’s,” said Roth.
Her parents will often watch her son while she trains with Becca Hamilton, another Madison-based curler.
“I would love to be able to focus 100% of my time on curling, but nursing is also a big passion of mine,” said Roth. “And so, if I wasn’t doing at least a little bit of both, I wouldn’t feel quite as fulfilled, I don’t think.”
But working as a nurse carries the risk of contracting COVID-19. The Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games requires all athletes to be fully vaccinated. They must also test negative in the days leading up to travel.
Roth is fully vaccinated and recommends that everyone else get their shots as well.
“That’s what’s going to keep you out of the hospital. Or at least lower your chances of getting admitted,” Roth said. “And having life altering effects.”
“I’ve seen firsthand COVID tear apart a person’s body and tear apart a person’s family and it’s really heartbreaking to be taking care of someone and it’s too late for them to get vaccinated. They didn’t make that choice to get vaccinated and they’re wishing that they had, or family members are wishing that their loved one had gotten vaccinated.”
She’s also not as worried about catching COVID-19 on the job because her employer has done a good job of protecting its workers. She also follows the latest CDC guidelines as best she can.
“When we’re out in public, when we’re training, we’re trying to socially distance as much as possible,” said Roth. “We’re not traveling by plane (to pre-Olympic competitions) – so that makes me feel better. It’s me and Becca driving in a car, rather than sitting next to 100 strangers. In preparation for Beijing, we’ll have to do a lot more. We’ll have to be cautious during our travels there.”
Several high-profile curling events were recently canceled due to COVID-19. But Roth says she’s ready to do whatever it takes to make it to Beijing safely and back.
The number of new COVID-19 cases are rising in China even as the government aggressively tries to stop the spread. All Olympic facilities have been cut off from the public in the lead up to the event.
The Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games says there will be no international spectators at the games and tickets will not be sold to the public.
We wish Roth the best of luck in Beijing. Hopefully, her colleagues can get on without her until she gets back.