Glen Ellyn, Ill., May 04, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Work life at Elmhurst Hospital looks different these days for College of DuPage Nursing alumnae Abbey Canaday Howard and Amy Wright. With the global coronavirus pandemic ravaging hospitals across the nation, the nursing graduates are in the trenches helping patients battle the disease.

Wright graduated from COD with a Associate of Science in Nursing in 2016 and now leads a team of cardiovascular nurses as the Director of Inpatient Cardiovascular and Telemetry at Edwards-Elmhurst Health. When the pandemic hit the U.S., Wright had to train her staff in acute care management as the hospital turned to all hands on deck.

“I have been thrown into a situation that has me making decisions that I never thought I would have to ever discuss,” she said. “I have had to remain calm, be the voice of reason and lead the staff to continue providing reliable care to our patients and to each other. I have had to decide who is going to the critical care unit to get a crash course in ventilators and care for a higher level of acuity patients. I have had to take staff who have been away from the bedside for 20 years and become a bedside nurse in a week or two.”

Canaday Howard graduated from COD’s Nursing program last year and now works as a registered nurse on the cardiovascular unit at the hospital under Wright’s leadership. Due to her vast experience with respirators, a skill she mastered at COD, she was moved to the critical care unit to help care for the influx of COVID-19 patients.

“Because of my background, I am now one of several nurse’s cross-training in our critical care unit in anticipation of an inundation of patients requiring critical care/ventilator use,” she said. “Should our hospital experience a surge of patients requiring mechanical ventilation, Elmhurst will have the staff to handle it. This is uncharted territory for everyone, but I'm always amazed at how our hospital and community have been able to come together and support one another at such a difficult time.”

Despite the stress and anxiety that comes with taking care of gravely-ill and highly contagious patients, the alumnae said they are grateful to COD for preparing them for a crisis of this magnitude.

“COD taught me how to prepare for something like this through various hospital simulations,” Wright said. “We learned everyday how to adapt to changes and what you would do in emergency situations you never expected. Policies, procedures and supplies change daily during this pandemic, but because of my experience, I feel equipped to handle the uncertainty.”

Canaday Howard echoed those sentiments crediting COD’s Nursing program for her ability to quickly adapt to changes.

“COD prepared me in every way possible in terms of my education and skill sets needed to succeed as a nurse, especially right now,” she said. “I often find myself thinking back on specific lectures or simulation scenarios that now apply to my real-world situations at work. The great thing about nursing as a profession is that we are committed to a lifetime of learning. I wanted to be a nurse because not only does it challenge me, but above all it allows me to make an impact on the lives of others.”

Staying connected to COD nursing faculty and alumni, as well each other, is making them both feel a little less isolated.

“I met some of my closest friends in the COD Nursing program and those friendships have now lasted to this day,” Canaday Howard said. “Having those relationships, especially now in the midst of a pandemic, has helped me tremendously because we can all understand one another and what we're experiencing on the front lines of it all. Working with Amy has created a sense of comradery and shows you how COD has opened so many doors of possibilities for nursing graduates.”

Both are trying to look at the positives and hope everyone takes a moment to realize how challenging being a health care professional can be.

“I’m humbled by the community’s unwavering support of health care workers,” Wright said. “People are delivering food, donating equipment and supplies and sending us messages of encouragement. It makes all the difference. In times where patients are not allowed to have visitors, we act as their family. It’s a trying time, but extremely gratifying to know we are able to give them the best possible care.”

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Jennifer Duda
College of DuPage
(630) 942-3097
dudajen@cod.edu