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On the front lines

Spectrum emergency nurse describes hospital environment during COVID 19

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's hard to imagine what it's like to knowingly be exposed to COVID 19 every time you walk into work, but that's exactly what Spectrum Health Emergency Nurse Manager Missy Rykse faces. And she'll do it again tomorrow and the next day.

Despite her busy schedule Missy gave us a few minutes of her time to describe life inside the hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

How has your job changed since COVID-19?

There are still a lot of unknowns in our jobs.  Emergency rooms don’t close, and we don’t ever turn anyone away.

Trauma patients are still coming in, one by one, and in addition to that we are all trying to work through this COVID-19 chaos.  The new challenge is identifying which patients are suspected COVID-19 cases and which are not.  And at some point we will need to shift our thinking and assume that all cases could be related to COVID-19.

What has it been like working through the COVID-19 pandemic so far?

Missy: Our emergency department is essentially split in half.  All of our EDs have tents outside because we try and keep patients with respiratory illnesses separate from other patients inside the hospital.  Patients with mild respiratory symptoms are evaluated and treated and we try to keep them outside the walls of the physical ED.  When we saw this hit us as a system, we stood up these tents and it’s been great having this support from leadership.

How have your teams been doing through all of this?

Missy: Our teams are doing the best that they can amid the constant change. We are also being challenged to be more flexible.  Bottom line: we are all in this together – providers, nurses, ancillary staff and others.  It’s critical that we make sure we have what we need to take care of patients.

Are any of your team members home sick or missing work due to illness? 
Some team members have required screening.  And we have people every day who can’t come to work because they don’t pass the employee health screening.

Do you believe the community’s preventative measures are working?

People are listening and are staying home and that is important.  Our hope in all of this is that the oncoming surge is like a normal busy day in the ED.  Since we have been able to empty spaces, cancel elective surgeries and focus on Spectrum Health Now-our virtual health service, we hope that we won’t see more patients than we can manage.

How are you doing on PPE supplies and how is the mask disinfecting process going? 

We are carefully following CDC guidelines.  All hospital staff are using hospital grade equipment, as directed.  We have implemented processes to disinfect masks in between shifts. Right now, supplies are good.  We hope PPE conservation right now will ensure we have what we need when the surge comes.

The hospitals are cleaning rooms regularly, cleaning nurse’s stations, keyboards, mouses and other equipment.  We are making sure we have ample hand sanitizer and are washing our hands regularly and wearing masks.

Spectrum Health has been blessed by so many donations from the community, including hand sanitizer from Amway, plastic shields from Steelcase and piles of hospital-approved PPE to replenish our supplies.  It’s helpful to see the community supporting our teams.

And what would you like to say to the community? 

We want to say thank you.  We see you.  We hear you.  And we feel the love.   Our departments are covered in artwork and cards from the community. When I walk past these things, it brings tears to my eyes and gives me fuel to keep going.  We take care of patients at their worst.  We always have and always will.

And we thank YOU Missy and all your co-workers and everyone else on the front line of this pandemic. We are in this together and we will get through it.

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