In the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, Cathleen Nesheiwat of Streamwood is in the thick of it, as a nurse on the medical pulmonary floor at Northwest Community Hospital. She and a group of mostly veteran nurses combine compassion and their special training to provide the first line of care for patients with symptoms caused by the virus.
“It’s been non-stop,” Nesheiwat said. “I’m on a totally quarantine isolation floor. Our floor and several others were converted for patients who we suspect have COVID-19 or they have tested positive.”
Nesheiwat graduated from Elgin Community College in 2015 with an associate degree in nursing. “The main reason the nursing profession called out to me is a genuine love for people,” Nesheiwat said. “I chose the ECC nursing program because it's the same college that my family attended, and it has a reputation for being one of the best nursing programs in the state.”
Nesheiwat and her colleagues monitor the respiratory status and well-being of patients who are relatively stable. They’re not in critical condition, or in need of ventilators, but they do need constant monitoring. “I watch them like a hawk,” she said. “That goes back to my training, there’s nothing more important than a patient’s respiratory status.”
While some do eventually need further care, the goal of course is to get patients back to health so they can return home. Nesheiwat says that’s the best part. “Seeing a patient recover where they are safe to go home, is just beyond a joy for us,” she said. “There’s a love-feeling that just washes over all of us.”
Nesheiwat says her training prepared her to stay calm and work with the resources she has—a valuable trait in the unprecedented conditions caused by the pandemic. “My instructors imparted that sense of responsibility and calm in the face of adversity and not to lose sight of who the patient is,” she said. “It’s about treating the patient holistically, so you don’t just treat the illness, you have to see the whole person.”
Since family and visitors aren’t allowed to visit her floor, Nesheiwat and others have been trying to connect families using Facetime. Nesheiwat said families have been showing their appreciation by sending notes, cards, and even doughnuts. They’ve been getting donations of food from local restaurants too. “We do tend to skip our lunches sometimes,” Nesheiwat said with a laugh. “So, I guess it’s also a way to ‘force’ us to eat.”
“The appreciation is really wonderful,” Nesheiwat said. “The children of the community have made so many cards and banners that we see around the hospital and on our floor. There’s this outpouring of love.”
Nesheiwat says the situation has required her to focus on what’s in front of her. She recognizes that with so much unknown, anyone can let fear get the best of them. Instead, she focuses on her work, and the people whose lives depend on her.
“You need to take it step-by-step and day-by-day,” she said. “This moment has taught me to keep plowing straight forward. As long as I don’t lose sight of what I was taught in my training and I keep sight of who the patient is, with that one person and each challenge, I can keep going.”