USF alumna Kat Knutson volunteers to help COVID-19 patients in Kentucky

April 27, 2020

University of Saint Francis alumna Kat Knutson (BS ’17) didn’t hesitate when she received a request for volunteer healthcare workers to assist COVID-19 patients in Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.

“The second I got the email I was ready to volunteer. Send me tomorrow!” Knutson said. “When they called the first round of volunteers and I wasn’t in the first round, I was kind of disappointed.”

Knutson’s name was called the next round. The third-year medical student at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) works 12-hour overnight weekend shifts to care for COVID-19 patients who are housed at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park.

“They’re either not sick enough to be in the hospital or they are recovering from being in the hospital but not able to go home for multiple reasons,” Knutson said. “They might have a person with cancer at home, or someone with an autoimmune issue or an elderly relative. Or they could be a homeless person and not have somewhere to live.”

During her shift, Knutson will take vital signs, assess symptoms and perform other routine care to make sure patients are doing well and have no urgent needs. All of the medical personnel use personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with patients. The patients meet medical personnel in an area outside of their rooms.

“Being isolated for that amount of time, even in their own home, is hard mentally,” Knutson said. “A lot of people who are quarantined are struggling. Being by yourself for 14 days is difficult. We’re there as a support system, monitoring them and making sure they’re not getting worse. If anything bad is happening, they’re taken to the hospital.”

Knutson, a native of Granger, Indiana, earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an Associate of Science in Chemistry at USF and was a member of the Cougars softball team. Her calling to medicine has always been strong and has been reinforced during the COVID-19 spread.

She expressed no reservations about working with the COVID-19 patients, despite the natural trepidation most people have about contracting the virus.

“Before they asked me to volunteer, I was wishing I could do something during this pandemic,” Knutson said. “It’s not only a great opportunity to learn and grow as a physician but it’s also helping the people we want to be helping. The whole reason I went into medicine was to help people. I felt helpless sitting at home.”