USF alumna and nurse practitioner Kelsey Richard talks about dealing with COVID-19

April 17, 2020

University of Saint Francis alumna Kelsey Richard (BSN ’16, MSN ’19) tries to take some time to disconnect from thinking about COVID-19 when she’s at home, but that’s easier said than done.

Richard is one of the essential workers trying to help on the front lines. As a nurse practitioner in cardiology at Lutheran Hospital, she can sense the healthcare community is on edge waiting for a possible surge in hospital needs.

“Everyone is on overload with information and it’s changing minute by minute,” Richard said. “You can’t put too much stock in one thing because the next day there will be a completely different protocol. I try to take it day by day, then go home to my family and try to wipe out the stress of the day.”

Among the significant impacts that Richard has seen from the COVID-19 pandemic is the worry among healthcare professionals about the unknowns connected to the virus’ spread, and the oddity of little other activity going on at the hospital.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve never really seen such a big group of healthcare providers be so terrified of the unknown,” she said.

Because elective surgeries have been put on hold and visitors reduced at Lutheran Hospital, the atmosphere has added to some uneasiness among everyone, she said.

“It’s very eerie to go to the hospital and no visitors are allowed,” she said. “A patient might be left alone and going through the worst days of their life without a single family member with them. That’s hard. It’s a strange time.”

Richard says communication with patients unrelated to COVID-19 has transitioned to phone communication whenever possible. But she worries some people decline to come in for necessary testing because of COVID-19 fears. “They need testing and follow-up and yet they don’t want to come to the hospital for testing because they don’t want to be exposed,” she said. “It’s a Catch-22. The big fear in our group is these patients, while staying at home to not catch COVID, could pass away from another medical condition.”

On a positive note, Richard believes Lutheran Hospital is prepared to deal with an expected peak in COVID-19 cases locally.

“I’m pretty confident that even during a surge we will be well-staffed,” Richard said. “It is all kind of a wait-and-see situation.”

She also says she would like to assure patients’ families that, even though visitation is limited, the patients are receiving quality care.

“We’re still taking excellent care of their family members and communicating as much as we can so they know what’s going on when they can’t be there,” Richard said. “Everyone’s wearing masks and feeling that barrier with face-to-face contact. But, we’re all in this together and we’re doing our best to keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible.”