While many people continue to help flatten the curve by staying home, nurses like Cheryl and Katlyn Richardson are answering the call of duty by serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from the bond they share as nurses in arms, the two Richardsons, mother and daughter, also share an alma mater - Alfred State College in Allegany County.
Cheryl graduated with a nursing degree in 1997 and Katlyn followed in 2013.
Scott Richardson, Cheryl’s husband and Katlyn’s father, is the interim chief of University Police a the college.
Cheryl said she is proud to call herself an Alfred State alum, and that she never dreamt that her career would take her in so many different directions, as she has trained in almost every hospital unit.
In addition to her duties as a home care nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association of Western New York, the elder Richardson has also been working in the emergency department at Noyes Hospital in Dansville recently.
Home care, Cheryl noted, has changed so much in the past few months as people are not being admitted to the hospital as frequently and are instead being sent home much sooner to protect them from the coronavirus.
As a result, surgeries have been postposed and patients that had family members assisting them or have private duty assistance are alone because of social distancing.
In addition to the typical cases she sees on a daily basis, Cheryl has also been caring for patients that have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of them have not required hospital admissions, while others have had the experience of extensive ICU stays requiring ventilation.
“Most patients require multidisciplinary services,” she said. “Each case must be triaged so that they do not take even the smallest risk of infecting compromised patients. Each day, I pray that I have not unknowingly been exposed to the COVID-19 virus and brought it into my home, putting my family at risk.”
Daughter Katlyn, meanwhile, works as a clinical nurse leader at Rochester General Hospital in the Adult Emergency Department - one of the 12 busiest in the country. She is one of six clinical leaders that manage the department.
The younger Richardson’s biggest job is not only maintaining the safety of her patients, but that of her staff members – all while managing the clinical flow of the department.
“As a leader, we are looked to for help, to answer questions and be a resource in any way possible,” Katlyn said. “I got called into action by default you could say. I chose emergency medicine to make a difference and to make an impact on patients’ lives. I chose to be a leader to make a difference in my department and the future of nursing. I will do whatever it takes to help these patients, to help my team, and to keep as many people as I can safe.”
While the pandemic continues to bring fear and change, said she knows it’s her job to provide the critical care these patients require, help their families that cannot be with their loved ones and keep her team up to date on the safest way to care for patients who are COVID-19 positive.
“One could argue that things like this are the nature of the beast in emergency medicine or critical care, but it’s so much more than any nurse ‘signed up to do,’” she said. “Being on the front lines is scary. It is emotionally draining, difficult, exhausting, you name it. It is so hard being so far away from my family and knowing that I cannot come home. I’m scared for their safety and health every single day and it kills me to know that I can put that all in jeopardy by coming home.”
At the same time, being on the front lines “is so much more rewarding than anything negative I could say,” Katelyn said.
“It is the most rewarding feeling in the world to stand between life and death for some people,” she continued. “During this pandemic, our patients are sicker and the way in which we practice medicine has changed drastically but we are truly saving lives. It has brought so many of us together and forced us to appreciate what is truly important in our lives. I’ve never been prouder to be a nurse and I’ve never been prouder of the team I work with that has become my family away from home.”