Meredith Ritze, a registered nurse, is working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic at Lowell General Hospital while finishing her master's degree at the Solomont School of Nursing. She’s seen first-hand the challenges that health care workers face.

The severe lack of personal protective equipment for health care workers prompted Ritze to act. She requested donations online, stitched cloth face coverings and surgical caps and collaborated with a local organization to produce 3D masks.

“I’m a very creative person and felt the need to get active and do something to protect people from contracting and spreading the virus,” says Ritze, who is earning a master’s in the family health nursing nurse practitioner program. “We made about 800 masks and a lot of face shields at Lowell Makes, which were all donated to hospitals.”

Her creative spirit paired with a keen interest in science was the perfect combination to pursue a career in nursing.

“I always enjoyed science and always wanted to know how the body worked,” she says. “I think science and art fuse in nursing because you need compassion, care and the desire to make improvements to the problems you confront. Nurses do this by improving ease of care delivery and evaluating the research and evidence.”

After 12 years working as a registered nurse in the emergency department at Lowell General Hospital, Ritze developed specialized skills caring for people who struggle with urology issues. She applied to UMass Lowell to become a nurse practitioner to further her career. 

“Although many people have difficulty understanding it, urology has become my calling. I wanted to care for those with urologic issues, especially women, who may not be comfortable seeing a male provider in a male-dominated field,” says Ritze, who was able to do a specialty rotation in urology in her last semester before the coronavirus hit.

She has thrived in the supportive, cohesive environment she found at UML.

“I have enjoyed UMass Lowell’s NP program because it’s a small, tight-knit group of people,” she says. 

As she wraps up her final semester, Ritze says she has appreciated how helpful faculty have been since the entire campus moved to online learning.

“My professors and the graduate program have been accommodating and understanding during these unprecedented times, and are adapting to our needs, which makes the transition palatable,” she says.