• June 5, 2020

Nurse adjusts to life with COVID-19 - Odessa American: Local News

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Nurse adjusts to life with COVID-19

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Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2020 12:40 pm

For Krystle Alexander and her colleagues, the age of COVID-19 is a unique time to be in the nursing profession.

Alexander, the unit director of medical-surgical and dialysis, has been a nurse since 2009. She was with Medical Center Hospital from 2006 to 2009 starting as a nursing assistant and then again from 2018 until now.

An Odessa native and a mother of two children under age 4, Alexander began her education at Odessa College and then went to University of Texas at Arlington. She started out in accounting and then went to MCH to volunteer for a scholarship when she was in college. Her aunt was a nurse and Alexander decided to become a nurse tech, which is what she graduated from college with and she has been doing it ever since.

National Nurse Week was May 6 through May 12. Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons said although Alexander hasn’t been in her job for long, she’s been effective.

“Krystle has been an evolving leader in her short months of being the director of 8C and Dialysis. Eager to build a department with quality care and love for her patients, you will see Krystle working alongside staff to meet patient needs. It has been a pleasure to work with Krystle in many capacities, but to see her growing as a leader in our organization is a blessing,” Timmons said in an email.

With the pandemic, Alexander’s skills and endurance have been put to the test. Alexander said nurses have to be flexible and there are a lot of stressors that they haven’t had before.

“… We can’t really see what the end goal is. We don’t know what we’re working with and what we’re working to, so we’re just trying to bend and flex every day to kind of see what’s coming out and what we’re doing different. We have to figure out ways to do things that we’ve always done that we cannot do anymore,” she said.

Because of the disease, patients have to be screened, patient flow has to be different and employees have to be protected.

“… We can’t have visitors, so you’re more of a support person for your patient. You’re also having to call families a lot more frequently than we were before to keep them updated or to get information. It’s just a whole different environment and then every day there’s new things that come out from the CDC about protection, numbers, what this virus does to people and how we should treat the patient,” Alexander said.

The hospital is still combining some units to be efficient with staff and locations.

“We’re kind of working that out as a transition over the rest of May to see what that will look like, but right now we’re kind of spread out all over,” Alexander said.

“Dialysis has still been busy and we’ve done a lot of dialysis on COVID patients, so that’s caused us to kind of be different because we have to sort of rearrange how we staff for that. You have to have one person at one machine for each of those patients vs in the suite where we could have multiple patients using a machine with several patients to one nurse,” Alexander said.

In her job, Alexander oversees about 58 nurses, which she said has been a challenge.

“… Leading in this time has been kind of transformative, especially getting information out. … We kind of have to try to filter information out to a lot of different people through several different forms of media, so text messaging, trying to call people, email people letters, managing exposures and (making sure they’re) managing their symptoms, they’re checking their temperatures, they’re checking them every day. If they know anyone that’s been positive, they need to be quarantined so every single day we kind of go through that …,” Alexander said.

Every patient that becomes a suspected person under investigation or is positive, they have to trace back to every nurse that’s been in contact with that person and monitor them for 14 days.

“Sometimes in the middle of the night you get an alert from the emergency alert system saying that just happened, so we come up here you pull all the lists and start calling,” she said.

For National Nurse Week, Alexander said the hospital received a lot of donations and had a grab-and-go barbecue where many items were donated, as well.

“We’ve had to kind of revamp how we do that, so we’re doing a lot of baskets and stuff like that on the units. We did a barbecue outside. … There was nowhere to sit. You just kind of come down a line. We had (it) prepackaged and ready so you kind of grabbed it and took it,” Alexander said.

As a result of the pandemic, Alexander said the nursing team has gotten closer. She added that you don’t realize how much support you get from your teammates.

“… You can’t hardly see each other without PPE (personal protective equipment) or a mask, so it just changes how we interact. We can’t hug or be close. The breakrooms are all monitored because of (social) distance, so you’ve had to kind of band together in different ways. We’ve had to do it, of course, because of staffing changes so we’ve had to work together and be really flexible in these times because things are different. But I think really the main thing (is) we’re all facing something that we’ve never faced before and nobody really knows what we experience because they’re not able to come here and see what we see. I think it really helps to bind us together because we can kind of understand what each other’s feeling, seeing and going through,” she said.

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