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We Are Family

How an ICU nurse manages work and pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mariska Bergula, RN, says she has two families, her family at home and her family at Scripps. As a clinical mentor in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Scripps Green Hospital for less than a year, she supports the staff delivering care at the bedside by providing training on policies, procedures and specialized care protocols, including those for patients with severe pulmonary disease.


The tight-knit team is bonded in the care they provide to their patients, she says. “They are the people who make me want to go to work every day.”

“I want to do my part. Because I can’t be at the bedside helping them with patient care, I want to support them in whatever way is safe for me and the baby.”

As the number of COVID-19 patients increased in the ICU, her Scripps family had increasing concern for her safety. Bergula is 6 ½ months pregnant with her first child — a little boy.


“I want to do my part. Because I can’t be at the bedside helping them with patient care, I want to support them in whatever way is safe for me and the baby,” she says. “There are some nurses who don’t have this option, so I realize how fortunate I am.”


Bergula provides training on new COVID-19 safety protocols, including donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning of the gear.


“Under normal circumstances there is a high workload caring for patients in the ICU — and now adding what it takes to even go in and out of a patient room with the PPEs makes it more of a challenge, Bergula adds. “I have seen so much camaraderie. All the physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, aides — everyone is giving it their all to help save lives.”


With patients on ventilators and so sick, she says success is measured in an hour-by-hour, day-by-day progression. “If someone needs less oxygen or less medicine, that is a win, since patients are often in the ICU for several weeks.”


Bergula maintains an upbeat attitude and looks forward to the birth of her little boy. She and her husband never expected to share the news of her pregnancy with her family by a Zoom meeting, but had a virtual gender reveal party in March.


“I can only imagine this time of our lives will end up in the history books,” says Bergula. “I hope we can learn from this experience, and one day I can tell my little boy the story of when he was in my belly and a lot of people were sick.”