Beyond the call: Nurses step up in extraordinary ways during COVID-19

May 12, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

For nurses at Michigan Medicine, the past few months have presented challenges never before seen in their careers. With ICUs created seemingly overnight and ever-changing patient populations, COVID-19 offered team members with opportunities to step up in astonishing ways.

“I’m proud of each and every one of our nurses,” said Nancy May, chief nurse executive for Michigan Medicine. “Responding to COVID-19 has not been an easy lift. But they have all done everything they can to create extraordinary outcomes for our patients and to look out for each other.”

To close out Nurses Week 2020, here are just a few of the thousands of examples of nurses going above and beyond their call of duty to ensure patients, families and coworkers have been cared for and kept as safe as possible during COVID-19.

Changing gears

For many nurses, the past few months have seen them redeployed or volunteering to change where they work and who they care for.

For instance, when there was a need for more staff at West Ann Arbor-Parkland Plaza (WAA), Sheila Kocis, R.N. and Kim Smith, R.N. — both from geriatrics — came forward.

“They were selfless enough to take themselves out of a clinic with no direct patient care and place themselves into a clinic with direct patient care,” said Reta Kazlauskas, R.N., of WAA Geriatrics. “I am honored to work with such kind-hearted, caring nurses.”

Lisa Rohlig, R.N., meanwhile, volunteered to transfer from the PACU at the Brighton Center for Specialty Care to the Regional Infectious Containment Unit, or RICU, on the main medical campus. The RICU was the first unit set up to care for COVID-19-positive patients.

“My background and heart is in critical care,” Rohlig said, “and this was a great opportunity to learn new things and help out in any way I could.”

While she spent only one shift working in the RICU, Rohlig wouldn’t hesitate to go back: “Working with COVID-19 patients was very rewarding and interesting. Although we are putting ourselves at risk, I feel like it is our duty to help out.” 

Beyond care

Nurses also went above and beyond in ways that many patients or community members may never notice. But their actions improved the morale and well-being of faculty and staff at a time of need.

Along those lines, Nichole Rybak and the Brandon Neonatal ICU nurses worked hard to put together care packages for their colleagues across the hospital.

As Caty Johnson, M.S.N., R.N., clinical nursing director of 8C said about the packages: “It is always wonderful to be recognized for hard work, but it’s extra special when it comes from others who do the same work you do.”

Meanwhile, nurse practitioner Courtney Clark organized meals for CVC4 and CVC5 ICU nurses for two weeks, delivering many of them herself.

“Courtney’s efforts pumped up team morale and inspired cardiac surgeons and fellow nurses to follow suit,” said nurse practitioner Rachel Scheich. “She’s an inspiration to us all.”

Finally, nurse practitioner Denyse Stepka presented all of her pulmonary colleagues with hand-sewn scrub caps as a way to say thank you.

In the end, these are just a few ways nurses have shown who they truly are: selfless, caring and invaluable members of the Michigan Medicine team.

To the thousands of others not mentioned here: thank you for all you do for patients, families and colleagues. Your work is important and inspiring.

Happy Nurses Week!