Alyssa Wilkerson holds on to the memory of when she and other nurses lined the halls of the ICU, cheering as a fully-recovered coronavirus patient was able to walk out.
“That was an emotional day,” she remembered. Alyssa took care of this patient as he was on a ventilator, watching him go from the highest ventilator setting she had ever seen, to slowly able to breathe on his own again.
“This time is not to be taken lightly,” she added. “A lot of people think these stay at home orders are unnecessary, but they aren’t. I want more rewarding stories of people recovering.”
While Alyssa’s work is extremely rewarding, it is also nerve-wracking to walk into a room with a COVID-19 patient.
Alyssa has seen such a wide variety of symptoms associated with coronavirus, she doesn’t always know what to expect, or even what to look for when treating coronavirus patients. So much surrounding coronavirus is unsure. Her hospital, like thousands of others, is creating a “surge plan” for what they will do as the number of cases increases.
“The unknown is the scariest part of this all,” she said. “In critical care we usually know what is going on and what steps need to be taken next, but with this you just don’t know what to expect. All we can do is roll with the punches.”
Alyssa is one of thousands of healthcare workers on the frontlines, fighting coronavirus. While many of us are staying at home, reading stories of this deadly disease, Alyssa is in the ICU helping patients on ventilators, surrounded by coronavirus every day.
Michelle Rousseau is another WGU grad who is working on the frontlines of COVID-19 as a nurse risk manager and patient safety officer. Coronavirus is one of the most challenging things Michelle deals with at work, and recently it hit her even closer to home. Her daughter, an OR nurse, recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“I didn’t know who to be angry with,” Michelle said. Her daughter had been having symptoms for three or four days before getting her test results and telling Michelle. Because both of them are working in the healthcare setting, they had strategically been self-isolating in different parts of their home to try and keep family members as safe as possible.
“I feel that I neglected my motherly duties by not checking on her,” Michelle said. But the truth was, her daughter hadn’t wanted to worry her mother until she had confirmed her results. Once the test results were confirmed, Michelle started to face even more challenges.
“As a nurse, I have a duty to the public, and as a mother I have a duty to care for my family,” she said. “So now I am a mother providing care to my COVID-19 positive daughter, and a nurse leader temporarily leading my facility remotely from my home.”
Alyssa and Michelle both agree that while nothing could fully prepare them for dealing with a global pandemic, WGU was the perfect option for their educational journey, and equipped them with skills they need every day.
“It is so easy to do while being a nurse, since it’s online you can work on your classes whenever you can,” Alyssa said. “Not only that, it’s super affordable and I actually finished the BSN program in just one year!”
Michelle agreed, adding, “I am more equipped to face the many challenges brought by COVID-19 because of the skills I acquired as a nurse leader, which allows me to contribute to the organization by looking at things from a systemic perspective. I was born a leader and a degree from WGU validates that I am doing what I was made for.”
The nurses and healthcare workers facing COVID-19 are vital to help us overcome this pandemic. These workers truly see what is happening with this disease, and we are indebted to them as they spend their days caring for others and facing the unknown.
“We are putting ourselves on the frontline of this pandemic to care for you and your loved ones. So please wash your hands and maintain social distancing for everyone’s sake,” Michelle said.
WGU is proud that many of our nursing graduates are working on those frontlines, helping patients, and putting themselves on the line to care for others. To all of you healthcare workers, thank you.
WGU alum and nurse Rich Hightower speaks to his experience serving in the U.S. National Disaster Medical Response team during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so proud of WGU alum Rich Hightower and our many amazing students and alumni providing care and fighting COVID-19.
WGU Master of Science in Nursing student Jessica White is pursuing her degree while being on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. She's an assistant nurse manager in the Medical Telemetry Unit at the University of Washington Medical Center. All patients in this unit have tested positive for COVID-19.