LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — A late January ice and snow storm was not enough to keep nurse Marianne Ashby from showing up at 5 a.m. to kick off another day of COVID-19 testing from a camper set up outside the emergency department at Northwest Health Porter Hospital.
"It's gratifying, you get to help the community," the Ogden Dunes resident said.
Ashby is among many of the Region's health care providers, who have spent much of the past year on the front lines working tirelessly and selflessly in the ever-growing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marianne Ashby, a nurse at Northwest Health Porter hospital, administers a COVID-19 test to Arin Koontz on Jan. 27 in Liberty Township.
"The staff throughout Northwest Health have proven to be extraordinarily compassionate and dedicated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," said a hospital spokesperson.
"It has been an emotionally and physically draining experience," the spokesperson said. "Yet, throughout it all, their focus remains on the care of our patients. We could not be more proud of them. The outpouring of support and the recognition that our employees and other front-line heroes have received from the community has helped buoy their spirits."
Ashby, like other health care workers across the nation, was pulled away from her usual job to join in the battle against the coronavirus. She said she had been working in cardiac rehab before being called on to start up the drive-thru testing site in April.
The nurses working the testing site, who began with a tent and wound up with a donated camper, have endured both heat and cold, but Ashby is not complaining and sees it as a "call to duty" for her and fellow health care workers.
"Everybody's come to step up to the plate," she said. "We just keep on doing it."
Hospital administrators, too, said they have stepped up with measures to give a little extra care to their health care workers during this challenging time.
Meghan Fox, a nurse at Northwest Health Porter hospital, readies for more drive-up COVID-19 tests on Jan. 27 in Liberty Township.
"Our Leadership Team continues to look for ways to support our staff," the hospital spokesperson said. "For example, one hospital created a quiet break room where staff can get away, take a break and enjoy complimentary treats. We’ve also provided meals periodically and have invited counselors on-site to speak with employees both in groups and as individuals."
In addition to the Porter site, Northwest Health operates hospitals in LaPorte and Knox.
Meghan Fox, nurse at Northwest Health Porter hospital, adminsters a COVID-19 test at the hospital's drive-up operation on Jan. 27 in Liberty T…
Tiffany McIlvain, who has worked inside the hospital on the COVID unit since it was opened in March, said she has not hesitated stepping up to help during the ongoing pandemic.
"I went into nursing to help people," the Medaryville resident said.
The pandemic has created a different environment on the job — one that allows fewer, but longer visits with COVID patients due to the need to put on so much protective gear, McIlvain said. The longer visits help combat stress among patients caused by the sight of everyone wearing masks, eye wear and gowns in their presence.
"A lot of them are very nervous and anxious," she said.
The visits also break up the day for the COVID patients, who are not allowed visitors and can't leave their rooms, McIlvain said.
McIlvain said she has not experienced the burnout reported by other health care workers on the front lines across the nation.
Meghan Fox, nurse at Northwest Health Porter hospital, prepares to administer a COVID-19 test to George Grimmell on Jan. 27 in the hospital's …
"I've really enjoyed working during this time," she said.
She credits her co-workers and their team approach in making this possible during these difficult times. Support from the community has also helped.
"The community has been wonderful," she said, describing the gifts of food and cards the staff have received.