Health care workers spend their lives preparing and honing their skills in the event the worst-case scenario arises.
Now those skills are being put to the test, as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic afflicts countless lives both in the United States and throughout the world. Health care workers are the ones at the forefront trying to beat it back.
"We know, in the end, we will make a difference, which balances out the fatigue and being overwhelmed," said Lenoir-Rhyne University alumna Haley Suttles, who is an emergency room nurse for Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge in Morganton. "We just encourage each other to take comfort in knowing we're in it together."
Suttles said her team has given care to both suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.
"Fortunately, my teammates and I work in the emergency department," she said. "We're used to disruption, which allows us the chance to make adjustments and be innovative. COVID-19 is unlike any disruption we've ever had, but it's our job to face it head on."
A 2011 graduate of the LR Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, she also earned her Master of Science in Nursing degree from the university in 2018, which she said helped prepare her for the current pandemic.
"In my BSN program, we had a disaster preparedness simulation," she said. "It's similar in that (COVID-19) is going to be a surge beyond our capacity. Having those courses and being able to think ahead is helpful.
"In my master's program, we did a lot of research. Having that background, knowing how to research an article and make sure it's reputable is important. We're trying to be innovative in our current situation. We're learning how to sterilize our (N95 respirator masks), and we're researching what other universities and health care systems are doing and what works well for them."
Suttles said support from the community has been coming in droves with restaurants donating meals to health care workers, as well as signs and social media posts offering uplifting words and messages of thanks. On Monday, April 6, law enforcement officers lined the driveway of the hospital with their vehicles and lights flashing, waving as Suttles and her teammates arrived for shift change.
"It makes it worth the hard days," Suttles said.