Celebrating our nurse heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic

May 6, 2020

At Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, we are humbled by some of our own orthopedic nurse heroes who have opted to care for COVID-19 patients during this difficult time. This year, perhaps more than ever, nurses all over the world deserve a special show of appreciation during this year's National Nurses Week (May 6-12).

Laura Quigley, APN, has been an orthopedic nurse for more than 40 years, working alongside joint replacement surgeons Drs. Joshua Jacobs and Jorge Galante. Most recently she has been working with Dr. Jacobs and the Rush University Medical Center Department of Orthopedics assisting with research to help discover new ways to treat patients with joint pain.

About a month ago, Quigley received an email from Rush with an ‘urgent request’ to help triage calls coming into the COVID-19 access line and she responded immediately. “I just felt that it is my responsibility as a nurse to help other members of my community,” she explained.

For several weeks now, Quigley has worked weekend overnight shifts, answering round-the-clock calls from patients and area residents who are concerned they may have COVID-19. She listens carefully, asks questions and screens them in order to provide the care they need. This includes counseling over the phone, a video visit with a care provider, a COVID-19 test, or a referral to the emergency department. “Earlier in the pandemic, people were looking for advice,” Quigley said. “Now, the acuity is higher and callers have a broader range of symptoms.”

Recently, as west side hospitals began working together, she also began responding to incoming calls from staff members at neighboring hospitals, including St. Anthony, Stroger and University of Illinois hospitals.

“Most nurses would want to do what they can,” she explained. “I just feel like this is time for all hands on deck.”

Since late 2019, Catherine Joung, RN, has worked on Dr. Denis Nam’s joint replacement team at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. Prior to this role, she served as a nurse on the orthopedic surgery floor at Rush—a floor she has recently returned to during the coronavirus patient surge at Rush.

“Dr. Nam and I discussed the opportunity for me to return ‘home’ to my old floor at Rush to help out with COVID patients,” she explained. “I knew that if any nursing team was going to successfully make the switch to caring for corona virus patients, it was that one. They are great.”

From 11am to 11pm, Chung has been working alongside her old team members to care for COVID patients who have been transferred from the Rush emergency department or intensive care unit.

“I went through an orientation and very quickly remembered many of the skills from nursing school that I’m now using to care for patients,” she said. “95% of our patients are testing positive for the corona virus and our floor is always full.”

She admits that at first it was a little scary, but now she has become accustomed to having her temperature taken when she arrives to work, being masked all day and wearing personal protective equipment and the special care required to return these patients home safely.

“I took the Nightingale pledge when I gradated from nursing school,” she explained. “I still hold fast to its promise of commitment to those who need care.”

Patti Piasecki, APN, who specializes in orthopedic oncology, has worked with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and the orthopedics department at Rush since 1984. Today she cares for the patients of Drs. Matt Colman, Steve Gitelis and Alan Blank, helping both children and adults navigate the difficult process of tumor removal surgery, sometimes limb removal, and additional oncology treatments.  Now, during the COVID-19 quarantine, she is caring for patients via telemedicine and telephone.

“Truly, I don’t feel like care has suffered at all,” she said. “All my patients have my cell and I can still talk often, prescribe medication as needed, and arrange additional support.”

Piasecki recently experienced the unusual when a patient scheduled for surgery tested positive for the virus and she had to explain the need to postpone.

“There’s no precedent for what any of us are doing right now, but we are an expert resource and I think we are all doing an excellent job,” she added.