Local nurse treats COVID-19 patients in New Orleans

Justin Collins, Orthopedic and Surgical Unit Nurse, Overland Park Regional Medical Center/HCA Midwest Health

Nurse Justin Collins

Q. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your job as an ICE nurse?
A. At our hospital, we had to consolidate resources and use different strategies. When COVID-19 hit, elective surgeries in my Medical-Surgical area were temporarily shut down. A lot of us were stressed, concerned about furloughs and layoffs. In late March or April, nurses in my unit were transferred to the Ortho Neuro Trauma unit. I was grateful to continue working and it was a good opportunity to refresh some skills I hadn’t used in a while.

Q. From there, did you get called back to the Medical Surgical unit?
A. Actually, I got called to serve a bit farther away…New Orleans! HCA Midwest Health asked for a group of nurses from OPRMC to temporarily work at its sister hospital, Tulane Medical Center. I got notified about this opportunity from my manager and jumped on it. I had been to New Orleans before for a mission trip. All the licensure issues were taken care of very quickly and I was very excited to get to the frontlines at a hospital that was treating COVID-19 patients to help them.

Q. What was the experience in New Orleans like for you?
A. Everyone at Tulane Medical Center was so grateful to have us there. While they had adequate staffing, they did appreciate having 12 of us there to provide extra hands and make their load much lighter. This hospital has the same charting system that we do, so that made me feel better. Tulane Medical Center had two full units dedicated to COVID-19 patients. It was like going into a war zone overnight, and it felt good to be critical to their mission.

Nurse Justin Collins working

Q. What was it like treating patients with COVID-19?
A. It was eye-opening. At first, the symptoms and clinical presentation seemed like other patients. I noted that the most vulnerable people had several co-morbidities, such as diabetes. This was a unique experience for me to grow my skills and use my training. 

Q. Is there a specific experience or patient from New Orleans that stands out to you?
A. I enjoyed making a connection with patients there, including a man who taught me a few Arabic words. We spoke about life, faith and hope amid a pandemic. Those were the best days, when I helped someone feel better about their situation. 

Q. How has this pandemic changed the way you will perform your job moving forward?
A. I think my experiences this year will change the care I give as a nurse…the ability to be more flexible and more resourceful. Going to New Orleans and working with patients who had COVID-19 gave me some peace in how we deal with a virus like this and gave me hope for recovery.

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