News & Stories

Rebecca Segrest
April 13, 2020

Called to serve in the epicenter of COVID-19

“My colleagues made posters and gave me a few gifts, including a roll of coveted toilet paper.”

As COVID-19 cases spiked in New York City, Rebecca Land Segrest ’02, packed for one of the most important trips of her life. On Easter Sunday, the registered nurse headed from her home in Rome, Ga., to the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic. During an eight-week stint, she is providing relief to overworked staff at Columbia University Medical Center, part of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. In the uncertainty of the situation, one thing is sure: she is tapping into her dual roles as a nurse and faith leader.

Before departing, she said, “I have been in numerous situations where you don’t know what you’re getting into when you respond, but you go because someone needs your help, praying that your training is enough.”

Rebecca is taking the good wishes of colleagues, who gave her a surprise sendoff. “My colleagues made posters and gave me a few gifts, including a roll of coveted toilet paper,” she said.

Since 2015, Rebecca has worked at the Surgery Center of Rome, beginning her day as a circulating nurse by 6 a.m. She works in the post-anesthesia care unit as well as pre-op and discharge areas. Her shift typically finishes by early afternoon, which allows her to fulfill another vocation.

Since 2017, Rebecca has served as the missioner for the Northwest Georgia Canterbury Club through the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Based at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rome, the organization holds weekly meetings and activities for local college students. “I facilitate and support the spiritual growth and faith journeys of students,” Rebecca said.

Andy Bressette, vice president for enrollment at Berry and a faculty advisor to the Canterbury Club, spoke highly of her work: “Rebecca ministers to the students with her ‘head, heart and hands’ and leads by example. Whether planning a fun caving trip, providing a nourishing meal or leading them on a mission trip, she demonstrates the Berry motto ‘Not to be ministered unto but to minister’ in her daily actions.”

Rebecca began her path to a career in health care, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. A member of the Berry equestrian team, she first considered veterinary medicine but found “people medicine” more to her liking. After graduating, Rebecca earned an R.N. degree from Floyd College (now Georgia Highlands College) in 2004. She spent a few years as a travel nurse and then worked outside the medical field before taking her current position.

While on duty at Columbia University Medical Center, Rebecca provides direct patient care in the intensive-care unit float pool, working four 12-hour night shifts per week. However, she is prepared to serve in the emergency room or any other area where she’s needed. She is renting an apartment with three other nurses—strangers who are likely to become fast friends. Despite her hectic schedule, Rebecca stays in contact with her family and continues virtual meetings with the Canterbury Club students.

For this caring nurse and missioner, life in the present moment means offering faith, hope and love to fellow Americans in New York City—faraway “neighbors” who matter. “It is not lost on me that I left on Easter Sunday,” she said. “I have the training and the availability to go to the areas that need the help of health care workers the most—how could I not?”

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