'We are proud to be taking care of people': Philadelphia nurses go viral dancing to Ciara’s 'Level Up'

·4 min read

The “Swab Squad,” otherwise known as the nurses at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s (TJUH) COVID-19 testing site in Philadelphia, Pa., are going above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to staffing the hospital’s testing site, through dance and creativity, they’re also spreading small doses of love and positivity.

“If the patients are able to laugh and experience some joy from being in our testing site, I highly encourage that,” Jeffrey Salvatore, the site coordinator for TJUH’s COVID-19 drive-through task force, tells Yahoo Life.

The COVID-19 outdoor testing site at TJUH opened in early March to help alleviate some of the stress within the hospital. It’s staffed by pool and per diem nurses, who are typically deployed to fill in staffing gaps at the hospital.

“It's this ironic paradox that these nurses who don't typically work together, in a time when people are asked to stay socially isolated or socially distant, they were brought together to work as a team for the first time,” says Salvatore.

The nurses work in rotating shifts at the testing site, which is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and limited hours on the weekends. Because they risk contracting the virus, many wear masks and protective gear at home, and some of the nurses are unable to see their families and children.

“We're doing the best to encourage our staff and our nurses to do the best job they can and take care of themselves,” Salvatore says. “But there’s still always going to be fear there underlying while in this situation.”


In addition to being on the frontlines, the nurses spend their 9-hour shifts facing the elements, sometimes in near-freezing temperatures. “The conditions for the nurses on a day-to-day is very non-traditional,” Salvatore explains. “We’re seeing upwards to over 100 to 200 patients a day sometimes.”

To help the staff get ready for their days at the testing site, they start each shift with a literal warm-up. “The dancing all started because we were honestly just trying to stay warm,” says Salvatore.

What started as a few workout moves eventually morphed into small choreographed dance routines. As the top priority of the staff at TJUH’s testing site is caring for the patients, most of the dancing is done before or after their shifts start.

“We discovered that it was really making us feel better, as far as alleviating our anxieties,” explains Salvatore. “That’s really important because you have to recognize how you feel about a certain situation as a health care worker. You need to take care of yourself first in order to be able to take care of your patients.”

The nurses named themselves the “Swab Squad,” in reference to the swab tests for COVID-19. They started recording their dances, one of which immediately caught the eye of singer Ciara.

Since posting the video to Instagram and TikTok on April 5, the Swab Squad’s choreographed dance challenge to Ciara’s song “Level Up” took off. Ciara reposted the video on April 6 on her Instagram account, where it racked up 3.5M views and counting.

“We were just blown away that Ciara actually acknowledged us,” says Salvatore. “Her message is exactly what we're trying to do, especially with that song. You might be scared, you might've hit a rough patch, had a difficult day, but you need to ‘Level Up.’ We are nurses, we are proud to be nurses. We are proud to be taking care of people, and although that looks a little different right now, we're still going to level up, and we're gonna do our job.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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