CHI Health St. Francis nurses share COVID-19 experiences

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM CDT
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On Wednesday, CHI Health officials gave their latest update on their fight against COVID-19 including nurses on the front lines who spoke out on what they've been seeing in Grand Island. One ICU nurse was asked if they think more people should take the virus seriously.

“I think it is a big deal from what we've seen in ICU, Intensive Care Unit Nurse Katie Kingsley said. “We're seeing the sickest of the sick. It doesn't matter your age, underlying issues it's taking people down and it takes them down quickly. They can go from not requiring any oxygen to requiring a ventilator within an hour.”

When asked how the pandemic compares to a flu outbreak, Dr. Nikhil Jagan, a Pulmonology and Critical Care Physician at the hospital, said the biggest difference is how quickly COVID-19 spreads.

"With the influenza season, we do see a fair amount of people but to an extent it's spread out," Dr. Jagan said. "The healthcare system isn't strained all at once. With COVID-19, the difference we see if the exponential rise in the number of sick people and all of it happening at the same time."

CHI Health St. Francis President Ed Hannon said there are about 30 people in the GI hospital with COVID-19. Thirteen of those patients are in the ICU and on ventilators to help them breathe.

He said nurses typically work three, 12 hour shifts a week. With the increase of need, many have taken extra shifts.

One emergency room nurse said she showers before she leaves work and has not seen her family at all.

“I'm not so necessarily worried about myself. I'm worried about those I care about,” Emergency Department Nurse Jordan Tjaden said. “So anything I can do, any extra step that I can take so make sure I don't get anyone sick is what everyone else is doing as well.”

The nurses said it’s hard having to limit the visitors when people are so sick and need their family around them.

“I can tell you that not only myself but every other nurse probably throughout the hospital, but definitely in our department, it is very challenging, it's very emotional,” Tjaden said “Patient's families can not be there. We have to be their support and it takes a lot from us as well.”

The hospital says they are prepared for when the virus continues to spread. They have enough PPE to keep their employees and patients safe and also enough ventilators to treat those who need one.

"We have about 100 adult ventilators. We have about 250 other machines, these are anesthesia machines, that we can use as ventilators," CHI Health CEO, Dr. Cliff Robertson said. "We have a significant amount of capacity across our health system, both in terms of ICU beds as well as ventilators for people who might need it."

Both Dr. Robertson and Hannon shared how grateful they are for the nurses and doctors on the front lines taking care of the sick.

“It's the kind of selfless people we have working here that don't think of themselves first,” Hannon said. “They care about everybody else first and take care of themselves and it's pretty inspiring. we have many people like that.”

As the virus does spread quickly through Hall County, they encourage people to continue to practice social distancing and stay home when they can. They are also working on translating all of their information into several languages so that the immigrant population can understand what's going on as well.

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