Nurse Michelle Davenport, pictured here, talked about the stresses of working during the pandemic. Credit: Hennepin Health

Michelle Davenport, 55, registered nurse, professional development specialist, Hennepin County Medical Center

I’m an educator. I’m being asked to return to the floor next week. Back in 2020 I did go to the med surge unit. It was scary. I cared more about my five grandchildren who were living with me then and my husband, who is disabled and on kidney dialysis. I had to do everything in my power to not give them COVID. It was hard, very hard, but it was daily life.

I changed into my uniform at the office, and then when I went home I would change my clothes in the garage. I would wipe my car down. I skipped saying hello to everybody, and I would shower. Then I would interact with my family.

The week I got COVID in March of 2021, I was scheduled to get my first vaccine. Before then, I was hesitant, as most of America was. But God has given me wisdom. When I got sick, I was hospitalized for two nights. I wasn’t on oxygen, but I could not care for myself anymore. I couldn’t break the fever. I thought I was going to lose my life. 

I couldn’t have visitors, but I called the chaplain. She came down and we prayed together. We prayed for my healing. That was the Saturday before Easter. We finally got that fever to break Easter morning.

When I’ve gone through experiences, these experiences can help someone else. After my bout with COVID, I became a vaccine advocate. I started talking to the world about it, encouraging people to get vaccinated. 

Throughout the pandemic, a lot of questions came up from the newer nurses in orientation. ‘I hope I don’t die,’ is one of the statements I heard. I told them my routine for keeping safe while treating COVID patients. The unfortunate thing is many of the new nurses didn’t have clinical experience during school because of the pandemic. Even now with Omicron, they’re not getting these clinical skills. 

For most of them, here in our organization is the first time they’ve even been with a patient. The group that came the other week, they were still doing catheterization in pop cans, pop bottles. I said, ‘Oh boy, I better think of something different here.’ Because they have to feel confident, and they don’t, and they’re scared, and rightfully so. 

My team is looking at how we can take away that fear and help them, and give them a little bit of confidence. We’re brainstorming. All of us are thinking, what can we take away from orientation and what can we add to orientation?  

The classroom, it goes in waves. Sometimes it’s larger, sometimes smaller. We are in surge capacity, and there’s a shortage. Unfortunately some are leaving the profession. It’s tough to hear that knowing I’ve been in nursing for 31 years. 

When I go back to the floor next week, I absolutely am going to take the same protective measures that I did in 2020. I don’t care if I’m vaccinated or not. Two little people in my house haven’t had it yet, still. They’re all fully vaccinated, but I’m not taking a chance. I’ll freeze to death in that garage changing into my nightgown real fast and run to the shower [laughs].

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...