Ep 67: Mission for Masks – A Millennial Influencer Making a Difference During COVID-19 Outbreak

When we finally make it through the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, there will be stories from across the country about heroes on the front lines that saved lives and prevented disasters. Nurses everywhere are battling the virus, and one millenial SRNA is giving them a voice now through an anonymous platform.

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

As the media covers the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the updates we get come from doctors and surgeons. While there’s great information available there, the true updates on struggles the healthcare industry are facing should come from nurses.

They are in the room treating patients hour by hour and know just how dire things have gotten in certain areas. Hearing these first-hand accounts would help people understand the importance of staying home and avoiding contact. Thanks to a social influencer and SRNA, those voices are starting to be heard.

Sonja Schwartzbach, BSN, RN, CCRN, is a blogger, author, and social influencer show who is currently a SRNA at Rutgers. You might have seen her book as well, Oh Shit, I Almost Killed You!, which is about her experience in nursing and some of the things she’s done and learned along the way.

When this COVID outbreak began getting worse, she wanted to figure out a way to leverage her Instagram following of nearly 50,000 followers to give nurses a place to share their first-hand accounts. She created a Mission for Masks Google Form where she allowed people around the world to submit their experiences and their struggles in an anonymous way.

At the time of this recording, more than 2,500 people had submitted a story. It’s gained so much traction that The New York Times wrote a story about her mission. This has served as a way to document poor working decisions and the bring attention to the needs facing the healthcare industry.

As we continue to devote the Beyond the Mask podcast to COVID-19 and its impact, we wanted to help share Sonja’s story and get the word out about the Mission for Masks. She joins us on this episode to discuss her background and how she came up with the idea for Mission for Masks. She’ll also share some of the things she’s heard from nurses around the world and what it will teach about preparing for outbreaks in the future.

Check it out at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

2:56 – Welcome in our guest Sonja Schwartzbach, BSN, RN, CCRN

3:45 – Sonja explains what her book is all about.  

5:02 – Sharon found out about Sonja just recently and the impact she’s been making.  

6:16 – How she started her Instagram account and found a way to use it to build the nursing community.

8:38 – She’s been doing a lot of work involving COVID-19 right in a hard hit area and describes where the biggest needs are.

9:48 – She started the Mission for Masks Google Form template to anonymously collect stories and got a lot of feedback immediately.

11:29 – These strains are happening across the country, not just in CA, NY, and WA.

12:59 – This is giving nurses a platform to speak out and share info from the frontlines.

15:10 – The history of retaliation in the nursing profession.

18:16 – What else has happened since the article came out in the The New York Times?

19:44 – Sonja shares some of the stories she’s hearing around the country right now.

21:33 – ‘There’s a sense of such helplessness.’

23:45 – Hopefully we come out of this and are much more prepared for an outbreak like this.

27:28 – Wrapping up the conversation with a final message from Sonja.   

“The extent of the COVID-19 crisis has hit so hard in this area that it truly is a warzone. And I had many messages that I had received from people telling me some of the tragic stories about what’s going on in terms of the conditions and the lack of PPE.

-Sonja Schwartzbach





CRNA Careers

Balancing a Career in Music with Being a CRNA

In this episode, Sharon and guest host Tracy Castleman, DNP, CRNA, APN-A, FAANA sit down David Giardinelli-O’Connor, PhD, DNAP, CRNA, who has successfully balanced a demanding career in anesthesia with his lifelong passion for music.




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J. Cross CRNA
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This podcast is very well put together. I love the hosts Sharon & Jeremy, they do a fantastic job at presenting topics as well as getting great speakers on the show! This is my morning commute podcast everyday! Thank you for all that you do!
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I enjoy listening every morning. Great content and always a pleasure to learn something new.
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I started listening to this podcast religiously early on in my CRNA journey, a year before applying to CRNA school. The content in this podcast was one of my most helpful resources for getting into my first choice school, Wake Forest! It has also been a huge motivator for getting involved with the AANA now and throughout my career. I highly recommend this podcast to every prospective CRNA I meet.
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I appreciate hearing the latest and greatest in the world of Nurse Anesthesiology while also getting Class B credits. Just listen on your commute for a win/win experience. I love the perspectives from Jeremy and Sharon who both ask varied and insightful questions!
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If you’re a CRNA or any medical professional, I highly recommend giving this podcast a listen. Hosts have a great rapport.