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Indiana University Health North Hospital has seen a sudden increase of COVID-19 patients. Team members from IU Health Arnett answered the call to help.
Emily Burkhalter is a resource nurse who floats between IU Health Arnett, Frankfort and White Memorial hospitals. She worked at IU Health Methodist after graduating from nursing school so when she was asked to help at North, she did not hesitate, “We are not overwhelmed right now, and I can help in the ICU based on my training.” So, Saturday evening (April 4) she made the one-and-a-half-hour trip to North from her home in Brookston.
The patients were much sicker than she anticipated. IU Health North typically has a 9 bed ICU and had 20 patients who were all positive for COVID-19. What she witnessed made her concerned for the nurses at North.
“It was nerve wracking but having worked at Methodist it was not overwhelming. The nurses at North were great. Day after day they just get it done. Stress levels are high, but spirits seem good.”
Burkhalter worked with a pediatric nurse. A pediatric nurse who was now working with adult patients positive for COVID-19. “It had to be so overwhelming for her. We worked well together. She followed my lead and we made it through the night. I kept reassuring her that she was doing a great job.”
When asked if she had second thoughts about helping, her immediate answer was no, even though she has an 8-month-old son at home. “You want to help – it’s the job. You can pickup COVID-19 at the grocery store, so I did not hesitate.”
Burkhalter is a clean freak but reports this pandemic has taken it to a whole new level. She does not wear her scrubs home. She has a tote in in the trunk of her car in which she places her shoes, her scrubs, her badge, her stethoscope. She wipes down her car with Clorox wipes after each shift. Everything gets wiped down or washed in bleach. She strips down and showers immediately when she gets home and then goes to greet her son.
Burkhalter praises IU Health for making sure everyone has PPE sharing that it brings a peace of mind. “We are all trying not to take it home.” She also praised the tier system set up at Arnett which prepared her for adventures at North.
Ryan Goris is a nurse who works the night shift in the ICU at IU Health Arnett. At Arnett he changes into and out of surgery scrubs at the hospital. When he gets home, he strips to his skivvies before even entering the house. His shoes stay in the trunk. He has his own laundry basket and starts his laundry immediately then jumps in the shower. His wife follows behind him with Clorox wipes and wipes down doorknobs and anything he might have touched. He has a designated area for his badge and keys. His car is off limits to the rest of the family even though it gets wiped down daily.
He also got the call to help on Friday night. Initially he was not sure about going when he was asked. He has a pregnant wife and seven-year-old twin girls at home. What impact will the virus have on his wife and the baby who is due the first part of June? Goris said he feels like we are playing chicken with the virus. “We know we are going to get it – it is bound to happen with my job. But as we get closer to delivery it gets scarier.”
Then he talked to Emily about how desperate things were at North, so he offered to work Sunday night. “I want to help where I am needed, and I felt compelled to help. I have been on the other side, so I know what it feels like to struggle and need help.”
Goris drove the hour south from his home in Rossville. He had never been to IU Health North Hospital. His first impression was how beautiful it was as he entered the hospital. All that changed when he got to the ICU. It was so much more than expected. He likened it to rushing into the flames.
“I was amazed at how busy they truly were. The ICU overflowed to PCU; the whole floor was full. It was overwhelming. Seeing how bad it really could get was an incredible eye-opener.”
He worked with a nurse that had 10 plus years of experience, but not critical care experience. He answered several questions and helped the nurses get comfortable with the machines. Filling in those little holes of knowledge.
If he could have worked 24 hours he would have. Three patients on dialysis and the nurses on duty were not familiar with the processes. The nurse that was most familiar with what those patients needed was also the charge nurse and was stretched thin.
“It is worse than you can imagine. Everyone is so busy – I don’t want to say drowning because that seems like an insult to the profession. The amount of teamwork was amazing. As busy as they were, they were still offering to help me with meds and supplies. They were so positive the entire shift. It was incredible. We got through it as a team.”
Lisa Sparks, Indianapolis Suburban Region Chief Nursing Officer remarked, “Watching our IU Health teams come together to help each other has been truly remarkable. We’re so thankful for Emily and Ryan and others from across the system who have answered the call. The infusion of skill and experience in caring for really sick patients has given our teams the support and confidence they need to keep delivering on our promise during this crisis.”
“I’m always proud to be a nurse. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a nurse and an IU Health team member than I am today. I think we will all look back on this period of time and know that in countless ways, we lived our IU Health values fully and showed such compassion for each other.”
Team work means we count on and care for each other – across the system.