ER nurses draw strength from each other to fight COVID-19 surge


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Capacity is high in Spectrum Health’s emergency department and the risk of infection is far from low as nurses combat the surge in coronavirus cases.

“We’ve seen in spiral, essentially out of control,” said Kendra Piot, nurse manager in Spectrum Health’s emergency department. “It’s sad and heart-wrenching to see patients that are suffering, and they don’t have their loved ones here with them.”

It’s an overwhelming reality for nurses as they work to mitigate spread of the virus while caring for themselves.

The state totals announced Monday brought the total number of confirmed cases to 264,576 since the virus was first detected in March and associated deaths to 8,049.

Monday evening, Spectrum Health’s website showed its hospitals were treating 321 COVID-19 inpatients, a number that has been increasing.

“We spend a majority of time trying to shuffle patients, trying to determine who’s the sickest,” Piot said. “There’s some days during this pandemic where I feel really defeated.”

Piot and her colleagues push forward, energized by the support they receive from their families.

“I rely on my family,” said Brandon Burns, charge nurse in Spectrum Health’s emergency department. “My wife’s always a good sounding board.”

Burns said he turns to his wife and two kids for strength as he helps bear the weight of this pandemic.

“That helps decompress from the daily reality of what we’re seeing here,” Burns said.

That same love binds Burns’ coworkers together at a time when the coronavirus is keeping them apart.

Staff in Spectrum Health’s emergency department lift each other up as they fight a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Courtesy)

“We build each other back up, and here at work, that’s how we get through it,” Piot said.

Health care workers said they don’t look for accolades.

“I don’t look at myself doing anything heroic,” Burns said.

They do, however, expect to see men, women and children wear a mask, social distance and join them in their fight.

“For anyone who says that COVID is not real, that it is a conspiracy, it is very much real,” Piot said.

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