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Preparing for a global pandemic is not something that goes through your mind when you choose to become a nurse. That said, when faced with the reality of COVID-19, nurses have stepped up to the challenge across the country by adjusting workflows and continuing to provide quality care in the safest way possible.

I am the nursing supervisor for Marshall Pediatrics. For almost two months now, we have been proactively dealing with COVID-19. Of all the various options we have considered throughout our planning for our response to this crisis, staying home was not one we considered. Despite the natural desire to keep ourselves and our families safe, nurses have duties and responsibilities to uphold. Part of our planning has been determining how to maximize our precautions and react to daily changes while still upholding our standards. My family has been extremely understanding and supportive during this time, especially on the days I come home in tears from the stress of the daily changes COVID-19 created. At home, everything seems the same, but then anxiety sets in again after I return to a nearly empty parking lot at work and stand in a checkpoint line just to enter the building. Life is far from normal.

When we drafted our COVID-19 response plan, we always put the safety of our patients and staff first. As a pediatric department, we had to come up with a game plan for how to provide care for those healthy children we routinely see while still being there for our patients who become ill. We gathered for long hours over the course of several days to work out the best strategy to meet our patients’ needs while reducing their potential exposure to COVID-19. We ended up completely restructuring how our practice operates from physicians’ schedules to office locations to appointment times. We reformatted the entire practice over the course of a few days, with nursing playing a central role. Our entire staff has helped make this transition as smooth as possible, and the patients have been extremely understanding and appreciative.

Once we had our department’s strategy in place, we were asked to coordinate a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility at the St. Mary’s Medical Center for Education. The drive-thru service involved the design of another workflow to make screening and testing as smooth as possible for patients while limiting COVID-19 exposure for staff. Early on in the process, the CDC and WVDHHR had strict screening guidelines due to limited testing availability. These restrictions understandably caused anxiety in patients. However, Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network worked together with outside vendors and dramatically increased our testing capacity, allowing us to ease screening criteria and test more patients.

Even with more widespread testing availability, we had to continue to be mindful of not wasting any personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid the scarcity many areas of the country have experienced. Furthermore, information about COVID-19 seemed to change daily in the early stages, and keeping everyone updated was a challenge. Despite these challenges, everyone involved has done a great job.

As a nurse, you take everything one day at a time. You do what needs to be done in that moment and take all the necessary precautions for disease prevention. As we celebrate Nurses Week, I’d like to recognize the nurses across the nation and beyond for their continual commitment to ensuring patients receive optimal care. Your selfless acts are making a tremendous impact on people’s lives. As for the staff at Marshall Health, I can’t imagine a better team to handle this crisis with. Their teamwork and dedication has been inspiring, and I am so proud of all of them.

Tracy Lange, RN, has been the nursing supervisor for Marshall Pediatrics for the past four years. She joined Marshall Health in 1997. She became a licensed practical nurse in 2010. She later earned her associate degree in nursing from the University of Rio Grande in 2014.

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