COVID-19, Spectrum Health System

Q & A from the front lines at Spectrum Health

Missy Rykse (left) and Kendra Peot (right), nurse managers at Spectrum Health Blodgett and Butterworth EDs

April 8, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 8, 2020 – Kendra Peot and Missy Rykse, nurse managers in the emergency departments at Spectrum Health Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals, took time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their day-to-day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does a nurse manager do on an average day?

Kendra: As nurse managers, we manage the nursing part of operations in the emergency department (ED).  Through this pandemic, we are deeply involved in planning for the surge, trying to figure out what to expect and how we are going to staff the department.

Nursing is often the glue that holds everything together, especially in the ED where coordination is key. We need to make sure all providers and other ancillary groups are working together, including radiology, pharmacy, lab, respiratory, patient access and more, all so we can serve our patients in the best possible way.

How has your job changed since COVID-19?

Kendra: Believe it or not, this pandemic has helped pull us together as a team.  There has been a sense of relief, too, that we all have one focus: this pandemic. Leadership has made this our priority so we are all continually focused on one thing.

There are still a lot of unknowns in our jobs.  Emergency rooms don’t close, and we don’t ever turn anyone away.

Missy: Trauma patients are still coming in, one by one, and in addition to that we are all trying to work through this COVID-19 chaos.  The new challenge is identifying which patients are suspected COVID-19 cases and which are not.  And at some point we will need to shift our thinking and assume that all cases could be related to COVID-19.

What has it been like working through the COVID-19 pandemic so far?

Missy: Our emergency department is essentially split in half.  All of our EDs have tents outside because we try and keep patients with respiratory illnesses separate from other patients inside the hospital.  Patients with mild respiratory symptoms are evaluated and treated and we try to keep them outside the walls of the physical ED.  When we saw this hit us as a system, we stood up these tents and it’s been great having this support from leadership.

Kendra: In the ED at Butterworth Hospital we are seeing more and more critically ill people.  Last week, we were intubating three patients at the same time. To see that play out really drives home how serious this all is.

How have your teams been doing through all of this?

Missy: Our teams are doing the best that they can amid the constant change. We are also being challenged to be more flexible.  Bottom line: we are all in this together – providers, nurses, ancillary staff and others.  It’s critical that we make sure we have what we need to take care of patients.

Kendra: Speaking as an ED nurse for 16 years, this is definitely a different time.  It’s more than expecting the unexpected.

In West Michigan, we have had the luxury of time to prepare for this pandemic.  Compared to our colleagues in SE Michigan and elsewhere in the U.S., we have had more time to read up on this, to mentally prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

This disease does not discriminate.  We are seeing it affect younger, healthy people as well as older people.  You sit and wonder who is going to be impacted and you realize that life is going to be very different six months from now.

Are any of your team members home sick or missing work due to illness? 
Kendra: Some team members have required screening.  And we have people every day who can’t come to work because they don’t pass the employee health screening.

Do you believe the community’s preventative measures are working?

Kendra: People are listening and are staying home and that is important.  Our hope in all of this is that the oncoming surge is like a normal busy day in the ED.  Since we have been able to empty spaces, cancel elective surgeries and focus on Spectrum Health Now-our virtual health service, we hope that we won’t see more patients than we can manage.

How are you doing on PPE supplies and how is the mask disinfecting process going? 

Kendra: We are carefully following CDC guidelines.  All hospital staff are using hospital grade equipment, as directed.  We have implemented processes to disinfect masks in between shifts. Right now, supplies are good.  We hope PPE conservation right now will ensure we have what we need when the surge comes.

The hospitals are cleaning rooms regularly, cleaning nurse’s stations, keyboards, mouses and other equipment.  We are making sure we have ample hand sanitizer and are washing our hands regularly and wearing masks.

Spectrum Health has been blessed by so many donations from the community, including hand sanitizer from Amway, plastic shields from Steelcase and piles of hospital-approved PPE to replenish our supplies.  It’s helpful to see the community supporting our teams.

Are you concerned about the potential for a patient surge in the coming weeks?

Missy: We are upscaling staff where needed. We have drastically increased training, and even included ventilator training for many staff members.  We have created more space for patients, including the GVSU overflow space, if needed.  We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

I would love to be able to say ‘West Michigan, we beat the surge.  Social distancing worked, and we never had to use everything that we have in place.’

What has been most difficult?
Kendra: Visitor restrictions are always hard.  People come into the ED for any and all problems and it’s scary to be without family. Seeing patients in an end-of-life situation and having to work within the visitor restrictions is mentally challenging for staff, too.  We want people to know that this is our calling and that we are here to help.  We will always treat your family as best as we can, even if you’re not right at their side.

What advice do you have for others working in health care right now?
Missy:  Wash your hands and lean on your teams for emotional support.  We are a team and we are in this together.  We have tons of support for staff if they are struggling mentally or physically.  Use the resources available and come to your leader if you need help.

Kendra:  We recognize we are all going to have moments of weakness. We need to lean on one another and help hold each other up.  We will all get through this.  In the ED we have been saying ‘we are much stronger together.’  I think we all are focusing on positivity.

And what would you like to say to the community? 

Kendra: We want to say thank you.  We see you.  We hear you.  And we feel the love. Please keep it coming.  The community support is what is keeping things going here on the front lines.  We have really hard days, but knowing we have an entire community supporting us is what gets us through. For me personally, nursing is my calling.  It’s what I’m supposed to be doing every day of my life.  The community support is overwhelming and will help carry me through.

Missy:  Our departments are covered in artwork and cards from the community.  When I walk past these things, it brings tears to my eyes and gives me fuel to keep going.  We take care of patients at their worst.  We always have and always will.

Kendra: One final thing I want everyone to know. Even though the hospital doors are locked to visitors, this place is full of caring and compassionate people working day in and day out.  As the front line at Spectrum Health we will take care of your loved ones and even try to fill that role of a loved one if you can’t physically be here to visit right now.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan. People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.

Rick Jensen
Media Relations
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