NAPLES, Fla. — COVID-19 cases are surging because of the Omicron variant. Fox 4 talked to nurses working at NCH Healthcare System about the lessons learned from the Delta variant surge last year, and how it prepared them for another wave of COVID-19.
"It's been like a never-ending journey with no end in sight, dealing with all these acutely sick patients," Julie Murphy, a Charge Nurse in the Cardiothoracic ICU. "It's just amazing what we can do for these patients now."
"The first case to now, it's a tremendous change," Ronald Pierre, an Registered Nurse, said.
Pierre has worked with NCH Healthcare System for more than six years, but said the last two battling the COVID-19 pandemic have been the hardest.
"Initially, it was a little bit heavy on all of us. But as we’re going through the pandemic, we have each other's backs. So we comfort each other,” he said.
Maria Kessler, the Director of Critical Care and the Cardiovascular ICU, said what they all learned from the initial onset of the virus in 2020 had them prepared for the surge in cases from the Delta variant.
"We were already ahead of the game in a way that we already had developed protocols to take care of our COVID patients,” she said. "There was a time when I had 47 ICU patients at North Naples, and we had 32-35 patients here downtown."
Kessler said the spike in patients was really challenging for the nursing staff at NCH.
"We never used travel nurses in the past, and we had to get supplemental staffing with travel nurses to meet the needs and the volume of our patient load," she said.
Michelle Mosher is one of those travel nurses.
"I actually came in in August with the surge," Mosher said. "Initially, I was in New York City when COVID hit back in April of 2020. And then a short time after that, I was at home, and then for a short period I went to Texas.”
She said patient outcomes in the ICU have significantly improved since the start of this pandemic.
"We went from saving less than 10 percent of lives a year and a half ago, to more than 80 percent now, or even 90 percent now,” Mosher said.
Kessler said she and the others working to save lives over the last two years will always feel the toll of the pandemic and remember the lives lost.
"We took care of all of our patients the best way we can," Kessler said through tears. "We have lost a lot of patients because they didn't want to be vaccinated. They were all young with families, and that could have been prevented.”
All four nurses said people should get vaccinated if they haven't already. They also said if you start feeling COVID-19 symptoms, get tested right away, because early intervention is key. They said waiting too long could land you in the hospital.