'It's like a war zone': A day in the life of a Shawnee ICU nurse during COVID pandemic

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

Every morning at 6 a.m. Intensive Care Unit Charge Nurse Danielle Taylor arrives at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee ready for a day of helping her fellow nurses and treating her own patients.

According to Taylor, she has worked in ICU for over five years and as a charge nurse it's her job to handle room assignments, supervising other nurses and coordinating care for patients.

"I review who's on the floor and get all my paperwork together," she said. "At 6:45 we do huddle with the other nurses and let them know what the floor is like and any changes or focuses we need to do as far as our procedures."

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After ensuring everyone knows what their day will look like, Taylor then starts her other duties as a nurse.

"I usually have up to three patients of my own and I start care on my patients as well as kind of rounding with the other doctors and nurses in their rooms," she said.

Additionally, the medical professional ensures patients are getting better and helps facilitate the leaving of old patients and the entry of new patients.

"We always have a bit of a waiting list on who needs to come up from the other floor," Taylor said.

The Oklahoma Baptist University graduate said currently each day is a hardship as she and her colleagues continue to treat patients in the most recent wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Danielle Taylor is an Intensive Care Unit Charge Nurse at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee who both assists other nurses and treats her own patients.

"It is definitely gut wrenching to go through this. There have been times that we have lost a patient every single day," she said. "We lost eight patients in one weekend. It feels like you're in a war zone and it's heart breaking especially when you know it's preventable."

For Taylor on of the hardest aspects of being a nurse is seeing how many patients and families have been drastically impacted by the coronavirus.

"We see these people suffer and these families suffer and we try to give them hope. We try to make sure they keep their dignity but sometimes we kind of already have an idea how it looks like it may go," she said.

Taylor explained she and her medical team keep both patients and families as updated as possible whether it regards their improvement or decline.

"We have to do everything we can to support their bodies and hopefully their bodies fight the virus," Taylor explained.

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The medical professional said best case scenario for COVID patients in the ICU is three weeks of treatment and then rehab, but they'll forever be affected by the virus.

"The worst case scenario is you go through all of this, you suffer and then you die," she said. "I can clean poop all day long. I can run and do 15,000 steps a day. I can work 16 hour days but watching the suffering and the emotional suffering is definitely the hardest part."

However, despite all of the hardships, Taylor soldiers on because her patients are her community members and they need her help.

"I absolutely feel like this is a calling. I feel like God prepared me for this," Taylor said. "I know that I am needed. There's a shortage right now and if I don't then who?"

Additionally, she knows she needs to keep fighting the battle because that's what ICU nurses do.

"We pitch in and we stick together and we support each other and encourage each other and give each other grace," she said. "There's days when you just have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and say a prayer before you go into work every day and just go in and do it."

For Taylor the best aspect of being a nurse is investing her time into helping people and making a difference in the world.

"It is a worthy calling. I am capable of helping in a way that not everybody can and I feel blessed to be given that opportunity," she said.

The nurse would like to thank the public for their patience as the hospital continues to adapt to COVID.

She also encourages people to do all they can to prevent any more families from suffering through this pandemic.

"When you hear a nurse talking about getting the vaccine, it's not political," Taylor said.

She explained when encouraging people to get the vaccine she tries not to sensationalize it or make people feel guilty but rather make them aware of its benefits and the cons of not receiving it.

"If you choose not to do it that's absolutely your right because you may have very good reason, but just be aware that the consequences are you could be the next person in that bed, and we don't want that for you," Taylor said.

Going forward, Taylor hopes for the end of the nurse shortage and for COVID to of course end, or at least become more manageable.

"At times it does feel like a mass casualty situation. We're making our supplies stretch," Taylor said. "We're making our people stretch and we're all exhausted and that's not sustainable forever."