Mercy Nurse Shares Her COVID-19 Journey

Nurse receives vaccine against COVID-19, at Mercy Regional Medical Center.

From caring for Mercy’s first patient with a suspected case of COVID-19, to receiving the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the last 10 months have been quite the journey for long-time Mercy nurse Dana Vander Veer, RN, BSN.

Dana has been part of the Mercy team for more than 10 years. During her career, she has had the opportunity to work in home health, hospice, on the orthopedic/spine unit, and, for the last three years, on Mercy’s medical/surgical (med/surg) unit. The ability to work in so many different care settings is one of the things Dana loves about her career at Mercy.

As Mercy prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, the med/surg unit was transformed to safely room stable COVID-19 patients. When the first patient arrived with a suspected case of COVID-19, Dana was on duty. She remembers standing in the hall watching as a security guard, dressed in personal protective equipment, escorted the patient on to the unit. (This is a practice that continues today. Each COVID-19 patient is escorted onto the unit in an effort to support both patients and caregivers.)

“It was really scary,” Dana recalls of that first case. “At that time, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

Yet, even with all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic, Dana felt supported from the very beginning. On that day 10 months ago, Dana was visited by Chief Nursing Officer Stephanie Clements, occupational health team members and many more -all checking in and offering support.

“It’s really been the whole building working together to keep everybody safe,” Dana explained. “I’m just proud I got to work during this time, and I’m so proud of my team.”

One of the most difficult parts, but one that is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, has been the visitor restrictions placed on patients with COVID-19. It’s hard for Mercy’s staff to watch patients recover from illness without the physical presence and support of their loved ones.

“It’s just horrible, because we all know how important it is to have the support of loved ones,” Dana explained.

According to Dana, Mercy’s ongoing response to COVID-19 has sparked the implementation of some positive change, including improved hospital-wide communication, quicker response and better forethought.

“We had good bones to begin with, but we were challenged in a very big way,” Dana said. “I believe we will be better after this in many ways.”

Not only has COVID-19 changed Dana’s life at work, like others across the world, it’s affected her personal life as well. During the pandemic, Dana’s 94-year-old mother moved in with her. To keep from bringing the virus home and possibly exposing her mother, on days she cares for COVID-19 patients, Dana stays at a different location.

Though Dana’s COVID-19 journey isn’t over, on Jan. 6 Dana celebrated a major milestone by receiving her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I am so grateful,” Dana responded when asked how she felt about receiving the vaccine.

Even with the availability of a vaccine the pandemic isn’t over. Dana encourages people to stay the course and abide by the public health orders in place to slow the spread including wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

“The more we can be safe over the next couple of months, the faster COVID-19 goes away,” Dana said.