BOISE, Idaho — As of Thursday night, Idaho had more than 1,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 40 deaths due to COVID-19.
To date, Idaho's healthcare system hasn't been overwhelmed but other areas of the country are facing that challenge.
Seven critical care nurses from Saint Alphonsus in Boise are now helping hospitals in other states that need extra helping hands during the pandemic.
Three of the nurses are working at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, California. The other four are working in cities near Detroit, Michigan. Two are currently at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, while the other two are at St. Mary Mercy in Livonia.
The nurses have been working in their new assignments for about two weeks, having left Boise on April 5.
Devan Hromcik works the night shift at St. Joseph.
“They have opened about 15 beds of their ICU that aren’t typically open so that has become their COVID critical care unit," she said. "And they’ve had quite a surgence of COVID patients at the hospital. I am personally working on the COVID unit.”
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Olivia Cordes works a day shift at Saint Agnes in Fresno. While she doesn't necessarily treat COVID-19 patients, she is filling a gap in the ICU.
“Here in Fresno it isn’t that they’re seeing insane numbers like other areas necessarily," she said. "They haven’t hit their surge yet either. But due to having to open new units, they were short-staffed so that is how we’re helping out.
“Truthfully the job here is not much different than what I do in Boise," Cordes continued. "I work in an ICU here. I’m working 12-hour shifts taking care of critically ill patients."
Both nurses described what it's like being on the front lines during the pandemic.
“We have this high anxiety of not knowing what’s coming next and we have high anxiety about keeping ourselves protected," Hromcik said.
Cordes added that there's a lot of pressure and stress on hospitals right now.
“I think regardless of your role in the hospital, there’s a tension knowing what’s possible,” she said.
Hromcik said she signed up to go help other areas simply because she had the training and ability to do so.
“Nursing for me has always been about helping a vulnerable population especially in an area of great need," she said.
She feels she has been able to help at St. Joseph and the experience has been valuable for her.
“When I initially came over here I thought I was coming to help the patients, but through my experience, I have discovered that I feel like I really was meant to come over here to help the nurses more," Hromcik said. "The nurses here have been on this high-alert, fight-or-flight response for a long time. It’s been really rewarding for us to be able to come in and to help those nurses by giving them a day off.”
Cordes also feels she'll be able to take away something from her experience in Fresno.
“I think it’s taught us a lot about the adaptability that we have and the support that we have from our community back home," she said.
The nurses were supposed to be gone for two weeks but most have been asked to extend their stays until the first of May.
Cordes said she and other nurses will be staying on in Fresno until then. Hromcik said due to some commitments back home, she will be returning to Boise next week.
“It’s been a great experience for sure,” she said.
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