Despite COVID-19, nurse connects with patients, finds joy

NILES — Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, one local nurse is finding joy in her work.

Ali Hackett, 34, of Jones, has been a registered nurse for four years now. Since graduating from Southwestern Michigan College in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree, she has worked for Spectrum Health Lakeland. For her first year and a half, she worked the neurology floor at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, but for the last two and half years, she fell into a department that she loves: emergency.

With the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down admission at the Lakeland Hospital Niles where she works now, Hackett reflected on the parts of her work where she finds the most fulfillment. From working in an ambulance to having quiet moments with patients, Hackett said she has found herself in her ideal career.

“I just wanted a change,” Hackett said of her decision to transfer to the emergency department. “I absolutely love it there. I love the ‘hectic-ness’ of it,” Hackett said. “I love not knowing what is going to come through the door next. Every day is different.”

The emergency department has some repeat patients, but unlike other wards of the hospital, it is largely a new set of patients every day.

The newness of every day is a driving force for Hackett. Hackett finds herself constantly learning.

“We don’t know where things are going to take us,” Hackett said of those in the department. She said the career keeps her on her toes, and working with a team to provide care for patients.

Like many others, Hackett and the hospital saw things change rapidly as COVID-19 arrived in Michigan. As news came through in the beginning of the pandemic, policies and protocols changed by the hour in the emergency department.

“We have our protocols on what to wear. What we clean things with has even changed,” Hackett said.

The Niles hospital’s patient volume has dropped dramatically, according to Hackett. COVID-19 positive patients are treated at the Spectrum Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph.

“We are not getting as many patients as we would normally see, which in turn has affected staff,” Hackett said.

As some hospitals across the nation find themselves understaffed, the hospital in Niles finds itself on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“We’re working with less staff and seeing less patients,” Hackett said.

Calls continue to come in throughout the day, but with people afraid to utilize the emergency room, Hackett said that many who do find their way in are very sick. Colds and flus are still currently spreading as the season transitions, in addition to the COVID-19 virus.

With the volume of patients down in the hospital, Hackett has found a bright spot in her work: connecting more with patients.

Visitors are still currently not allowed in the emergency department of the hospital, so when Hackett has the time, she will sit and talk with patients. Many of the older patients have been lonely due to the mandates and isolation practices.

“They just want you to sit and talk with you,” Hackett said. “You get to hear about their past, their history. They have such amazing stories.”

Other moments in her career that have helped root her decision to stay in the emergency department are seeing patients needing immediate care to get back on the road to recovery.

“When we get a little kiddo in who has a fever, and they just look terrible with a cold or the flu, you give them something simple,” Hackett said. “A half an hour later, they’re up and playing, and they just look better. Those little, simple things where we get immediate results is amazing to see. They make us feel great.”

Knowing that she is empowered to help people in that way, and is able to help educate parents on how to continue a recovery, makes it all worth it to Hackett.

Today is National Nurses Day, and to celebrate area nurses, Spectrum Health Lakeland will be hosting a luminary event throughout the southwest Michigan community on May 12. The date was chosen in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday.

Community members are encouraged to write the names of the healthcare workers they would like to honor on a paper bag, light a candle and place the luminary on their front porch or driveway, according to a statement released by Spectrum Health Lakeland. To share, Spectrum Health Lakeland encouraged community members to tag its page in photos posted of the luminaries, or email the photos to info@lakelandhealth.org.

In the original publication of this article, Spectrum Health Lakeland, Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph and Lakeland Hospital Niles were named incorrectly. Leader Publications regrets these errors and is happy to correct them.

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