National Nurses Day: Highlighting two Peoria nurses working in a Chicago hospital ICU full with COVID-19 patients

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Wednesday, May 6 marks the beginning of a week dedicated to honoring those who care for us.

Wednesday starts ‘National Nurses Week’ with ‘National Nurses Day.’

The week is in honor of Florence Nightingale, who was born on May 12, 1820. She is known as the founder of modern nursing. The COVID-19 pandemic is proving how important nurses are to our healthcare systems.

Around the world nurses are battling new challenged they’ve never seen before.

The Novel Coronavirus is rapidly spreading. Chicago itself has around 50,000 COVID-19 cases, meaning hospitals there need extra support from medical professionals in different areas of the state.

“Taking care of COVID patients, it can be intense at times,” said Clinical Resource Team Nurse Aaron Ackerson.

Aaron Ackerson and Shelby Voyles are two Peoria nurses who travel to Chicago every week to Little Company of Mary Hospital, recently acquired by OSF Healthcare.

It’s not where they work full-time, but it’s where they’ve been assigned to work during the pandemic.

They say it’s a kind of healthcare challenge they’ve never seen before.

“This is a disaster plan. It’s nobody’s ideal work environment,” Voyles said.

“You’re kind of always on edge because when patients decline, they’re declining rapidly,” Ackerman said.

Voyles says sometimes things seem hopeless.

“I will work as hard as I can for 12 straight hours to keep you alive. And when nothing I do is good enough, and no meds I can give you are good enough, it’s really hard to go back,” Voyles said.

But because of her team, her family, and seeing people recover, she keeps on working.

“One of the good things we hear about is when our patients go to the floor. That’s a good thing, that means they’re stable enough to go to the ICU,” Voyles said.

Voyles says because hospitals are not allowing visitors, nurses have taken on much more responsibility.

“In addition to being your communicator, we are your primary source of comfort,” Voyles said.

Voyles says while hospitals in Chicago are being overrun with COVID-19 patients, it’s not that way in central Illinois.

“I don’t want that to be taken for granted, you know? Just how blessed we are to be able to see hospitals that aren’t overflowing,” Voyles said.

Both Ackerson and Voyles say they will continue working in the Little Company ICU until there is no longer a need.

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