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Nurses provide backbone to care centers

The task of being in health care has never been tougher than it is right now, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of nurses from showing up to work every day with a smile for their residents amidst the lurking threat of COVID-19.

Nurses have had to deal with different guidelines on a daily basis to deal with the virus. They’ve had to continue screening employees and residents to keep COVID-19 out of their facilities and they’ve also had to attempt to keep spirits up in places where masks have become the norm and visitors are no longer allowed.

Nurses from The Cedars Senior Living Community pose for a picture by a banner supporting those that work there. Photo provided

Amber Sanvick is the director of Health Care at the Cedars of Austin. She splits her time in the office and on the floor, working as a nurse on the front lines.

“So far we’ve been lucky and it hasn’t affected us yet. We are just preparing, trying to keep our residents healthy and keeping the virus away,” Sanvick said. “It’s part of the whole circle. The community stays at home while we’re working to slow the virus spread. If that’s what we have to do, then I’m okay with it.”

Whatever routine nurses had before COVID-19 has all changed now. Days now begin with temperature checks and room checks as residents are provided with one-on-one activities.

Being isolated in a nursing home is tough on residents, but nursing staffs have answered the call, providing healthcare and companionship.

Sarah Smith works by a med cart at Sacred Heart Care Center. Photo provided

“Our main goal is to keep them healthy and provide them a good quality of life,” Sanvick said. “It’s really hard for them, but we have a good activity department that has catered to our residents. We’re trying to keep their spirits up.”

Kim Klingfus, RN director of nursing at Sacred Heart Care Center in Austin, said that it’s hard to properly define nurses and others in healthcare in this time of crisis.

“I can’t even come up with a word other than rockstar,” Klingfus said. “It’s not just nurses, it’s doctors and any healthcare officials that have to deal with COVID-19 right now. They’re a godsend. They’re angels.”

Klingfus has been in healthcare since 1994 and the only comparison she could find to COVID-19 was the HIV outbreak. But that doesn’t compare to what hospitals, nursing homes, and society are going through right now.

Klingfus’s staff has taken on many extra duties, including injury rehabilitation, family calls and solo activities.

“They’ve been working hard. We’ve never been through this before, ever. Never have we had this,” Klingfus said. “Everybody has gone above and beyond trying to take care of the residents. We all have extra duties.”

The stress has been building up among the facilities, but options are limited for treatment. Klingfus has made a habit of offering treats to the staff to keep them going, but she wishes she could do more.

“I’d like to have a massage therapist come in here every day, but we can’t do that,” Klingfus said. “Everyone in here has to be screened and has to be essential.”

While she knows she is working near harm’s way, Sanvick has not backed down from her career.

“I’m proud of what I do. I’m proud of being a nurse,” Sanvick said. “I get to take care of people and that’s what I signed up for. We have a good, strong team here and we’re doing whatever we can to keep our residents healthy and safe.”