COM graduates join in the fight against COVID-19

Aaron Sundve
COM alum Aaron Sundve prepares to suit up in his personal protective equipment during his shift as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at Vista Medical Center in Waukegan, Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic.

College of the Mainland’s Associate Degree Nursing Program has held a longstanding reputation for training highly skilled nurses who are prepared for the rigor of a career in the health care industry. That training is now being put to work as COM nursing graduates join with millions of health care workers around the world in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

For Aaron Sundve, it wasn’t a difficult decision to quit his job as a Houston-based nurse to take on a traveling assignment across the country so that he could do his part to help on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

“Just being a nurse and in the community, you hear the horror stories of what nurses are going through,” Sundve said. “I have nursing friends all across the country. And I was like, I’m able to help. I just want to go and help. I don’t want my fellow nurses to be going through this alone.”

Sundve is currently working as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at Vista Medical Center in Waukegan, Illinois. The 2016 COM graduate is completing a grueling 13-week assignment in what is normally a 15-bed ICU. But ever since Waukegan became the local ground-zero for the pandemic, COVID patients have taken over two other units in the hospital and is now up to 35 beds.

“My assignment is anywhere from two to three patients who are all on life support, a very, very sick population right here,” Sundve said.

As Sundve completes his remaining weeks in the ICU, he encourages the public to continue adhering to the safety and social distancing guidance of public health officials while continuing to navigate through the tough road ahead. “Follow the guidelines of washing your hands frequently. If you have to wear a surgical mask somewhere, wear it.”

Fellow COM alum, Diana Davis graduated from the nursing program in May 2017 and now works as an emergency room nurse at HCA Houston Healthcare Southeast Hospital in Pasadena, Texas. Before COVID-19, her typical shift often included treating trauma patients suffering with gunshot wounds or cardiopulmonary issues requiring CPR. But that was before COVID-19.

She now finds herself caring for the needs of COVID-19 patients not only from a physical perspective but a personal one as well. As a frontline health care worker, she plays a critical role in trying to fill the void of families who are unable to visit their loved ones due to the pandemic.

“I’ve experienced seeing patients take their last breath alone, isolated from their loved ones, with only us fighting to keep them here,” Davis said. “I choose to carry those images with me to remind myself that no matter how busy I may be, I should take the time to reach out to a patient’s family. They are hurting from afar, missing that closure many others may have gotten.”

While that work weighs heavily on the mind of Davis, together with her nursing colleagues, she remains committed to delivering compassion during these challenging times. And through this commitment, health care workers have built an insurmountable trust for each other while navigating through the pandemic.

“Teamwork is a huge part of the ER, but with the COVID-19 crisis there is limited staff allowed in on a COVID code in order to protect excess staff from exposure,” Davis explained. “So, you have to be confident in your abilities and also confident in your team members outside the door, running meds and supplies for you. This has altered my nursing perspective on teamwork, you always trust what you see, but in a COVID-19 code, you have to trust the team you can’t see.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many to a heightened understanding of health care norms, for Aaron, Diana, and the millions of other frontline health care workers, it’s all in a day’s work of fighting to save lives. And together, these nurses remind the COM community of just what it means to be a health care superhero.

“Seeing the nursing nation as a whole come together to support one another has been very inspiring to me,” Davis said. “Nurses from other states reaching out to other hospitals to offer relief and assistance, selflessly giving of their time, and knowledge. Their own health put at risk for those they don’t even know. That’s been inspiring.”

COM alum Diana Davis works as an emergency room nurse at HCA Houston Healthcare Southeast Hospital in Pasadena, Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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