Call it a coronavirus coincidence. Or maybe just a COVID-19 connection. Whatever it is, all Bridget McGowan, RN, and Maggie O’Rourke, RN, know is that the pandemic has reunited two nursing graduates from MGH Institute of Health Professions who now share a common mission of caring for patients at Massachusetts General Hospital on the front lines of the crisis.

Both nurses stand together in personal protective equipment
Bridget McGowan, RN, and Maggie O’Rourke, RN

The pair, who graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, had lost touch during the ensuing years. Although they sometimes saw each other while walking through the hospital's hallways or standing in line at Coffee Central, they were both too busy working to give their friendship much time.

Things changed in mid-April during the height of the coronavirus surge. McGowan, who normally works at Lunder 10, the inpatient BMT/Hematology Oncology unit, had volunteered to help with coronavirus patients. It was on her first day at the Blake 12 Intensive Care Unit, while searching for a blood glucose meter, when she saw a pair of “big, blue eyes” that looked familiar.

“Is that you, Maggie?” McGowan asked. 

It took O’Rourke a few seconds to recognize her former classmate. “It’s kind of hard to see who people are because we're all wearing masks and hats,” said O’Rourke, who works in the Blake ICU. “But it was great to see Bridget.”

For McGowan, seeing a friendly face also was a welcome sight, especially since she was a bit apprehensive and unsure of what to expect working on a COVID-19 unit. “It makes it a little less stressful when you have someone you know around,” she said. “It has been nice working together, especially during the pandemic where teamwork is so essential.”

While the duo has worked together for just one shift, they hope it becomes more of a regular occurrence. If not, they look forward to sharing a glass of wine and catching up once physical distancing orders have been relaxed.

“If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that it’s brought us back together,” O’Rourke said, “and that’s been really great."