Nurse: ‘I’ve never experienced anything like this’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — Nurses across West Michigan are finding a new normal as they work to fight COVID-19.

Some nurses at Spectrum Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids have gone from working Monday through Friday to adding extra days to their shifts and also working 12 hour shifts. 

“It’s been an interesting time. I’ve never in my career as a nurse experienced anything like this,” Nurse Manager Missy Rykse said.

Rykse says the last few weeks have come with many challenges as the medical staff work to save patients lives, while risking their own. 

“We have flu season every year and we had pockets of the SARS virus a few years ago. We prepared for Ebola. I think the difference with this is that it’s here, it’s quickly spreading and we’re seeing patients who are very, very sick with it,” she added.

Rykse says patients who come in with respiratory issues are sectioned off from others to prevent further spread of the virus. The hospital is also conserving most of its personal protective gear for COVID patients.

“Over here in West Michigan, we’ve had a lot of time to prepare,” Rykse said. “I think we’re lucky that we’re not seeing the volume that New York or Detroit is seeing, so we’re able to spread that stress a little bit,” she added. 

Rykse says while the staff delivers life saving care, they’re also serving as emotional support to their patients who are in isolation and only able to contact family virtually.

“None of us hesitate to hold somebody’s hand. Your loved one is typically not alone,” Rykse said. “It’s scary for patients anytime that you’re coming into the hospital anyway. I think patients are a little bit more scared because you do hear from everywhere that people are dying from this, so that is in the back of everybody’s mind.” 

Rykse says elective surgeries have been canceled and Spectrum closed several offices. Spectrum is now working to retrain those employees and deploy them to other areas where they’re needed more.