New Nurse Begins Career on the Front Lines of COVID-19
Brianna Erickson wanted to be an ICU nurse for the challenge, but she never imagined her first challenge would be caring for the sickest patients in a pandemic.
“I wanted to be able to use my critical thinking skills, which I see as one of my strengths,” said Erickson, a registered nurse at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. “I know this experience will help me be the best nurse I can be.”
A December 2019 graduate of South Dakota State University, Erickson already had a job at Avera McKennan lined up and was excited to get started. She began work in February, just as Avera teams were beginning to train and prepare for the coming COVID-19 crisis.
As the weeks unfolded, things began to change very quickly. A beginning ICU nurse goes through 16 weeks of orientation. “I have amazing mentors who have definitely helped me through all this so far,” Erickson said.
She’s now at the point where she can care for patients on her own, with mentors there to offer support and answer questions.
Erickson has cared for a mix of COVID and non-COVID patients. Avera has two separated units for COVID and non-COVID care. “Because we can’t allow visitors, we as nurses not only play a caregiver role but also the role of family for many of these patients,” she said. “Every day, our mission at Avera truly aligns with the nurse I want to be.”
Fear of getting the virus doesn’t plague Erickson, but she does have a healthy respect for it. “Once I got in the ICU and saw how sick COVID patients can get, it became a little worrisome to me. But I have a great supervisor who has prepared us well and made us feel safe with all the protective equipment that we wear. That’s very reassuring.”
Nurses and caregivers are viewed as heroes on the front lines of the war against COVID-19. “I never thought that I would be doing this as a nurse. I feel we have the support of the community. It feels good that people appreciate the work we are doing,” Erickson said.
The value of teamwork will be something that Erickson takes with her from this experience. “As a team, our unit has done a great job of adjusting to all the constant change. Together we are strong, ready, and well-prepared for anything that comes our way.”