CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – For many doctors, nurses and health care staffers, this is not just another Christmas away from loved ones, but it’s the second year battling the COVID-19 pandemic and another wave of winter cases.

LaTasha Hines has been a nurse for seven years and now she’s working as a travel COVID-19 ICU nurse with UNC Health.

“We wake up and we think about what can we do to safe a life today?” Hines said while working over the holiday weekend.

As the Omicron variant continues to spread, she says working the holidays this year feels similar to last year’s winter COVID-19 surge in cases.

“You are so used to giving your all and you feel like you’ve left it but with this new COVID, all these different strands, it’s like, did we really give it our all?” said Hines who is from Kinston. “Have we really given it everything?”

While she’s an hour and a half away from her children and the rest of her own Kinston family, she knows that for some people on her ICU floor, she’s all the comfort the patients will have during the holiday, Hines says.

“It’s not fighting for a stranger’s life, it’s fighting for your patient’s life. It’s like having your baby in that bed,” Hines said. “So you definitely give every bit of your heart and you leave it there with that patient.”

She’s urging people to get vaccinated, practice safe gatherings and cherish the time they have with loved ones.

“By the time you get off you are mentally drained and exhausted but you have to dig deep and look into your heart and still provide that warm smile and those hugs to your children and your family,” Hines said.

With all hands on deck for nearly two years, she hit pause on her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.

But she hopes that by next Christmas, that dream will be a reality.

“I was very blessed to get the opportunity here at UNC-Chapel Hill to complete my clinical rotation,” Hines said. “I have two clinical rotations left and one class.”