Nancy Smet has been a nurse for 44 years and has extensive experience in pediatrics and intensive care, including home care experience with children on ventilators. She recently transitioned from a one-on-one school nursing position to work on the frontlines of COVID-19 in public health. Nancy is helping to make a difference in many lives during this unprecedented time.
Working in admissions for a quarantine unit in King County, WA, Nancy provides homeless and other struggling communities a safe place to isolate for those that test positive for COVID-19. The facility is simple: just some trailers in a parking lot in an industrial area. A lot of the people that Nancy sees have been living on the street, in their car, or group homes. “Sometimes they just come with the clothes on their back,” she says.
Nancy describes public health as a real group effort. After being transported to her unit and tested, anyone that is acutely ill is taken to the hospital and those that are negative can then be assisted to find better housing and if necessary, address any behavioral services and get them back on their medication.
For those that do test positive and need to stay, the unit monitors their oxygenation, distributes basic medications, and provides three meals a day for the two-week isolation period. They also have a physician group on call to assist when needed.
Patients are referred to as “guests” in the quarantine unit and Nancy really loves the environment they’re able to provide for them. She also enjoys talking with these clients since they are otherwise pretty isolated. “I just love nursing. I love people,” she says.
Nancy wants to make sure her patients feel cared for. She has always been drawn to helping those that are most in need. The opportunity to work in public health was a natural fit for her.
Prior to her current assignment, Nancy provided one-on-one nursing for a student in special education. She helped address psychological and social issues with the student as well as support the family. When COVID-19 started closing schools in the state, she wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to stay in her position. The uncertainty was scary for her, but she put her trust in her recruiter, Gwen.
“I’ve worked with SHC for about four or five years and it’s been wonderful. They’ve been like my friends,” Nancy says.
Her transition into a crisis assignment was quick, but things have gone smoothly considering the situation. Nancy thanks her recruiter for being ready to go in placing her into the public health position when the school changes happened.
Although there have been continuous changes to their operations based on CDC and government recommendations, Nancy has adapted and remained positive throughout her time in the quarantine unit. She says the county has been wonderful to work with and her unit also appreciates the many donations they’ve received including 3D printed face shields and disinfectant from a local distillery.
We are inspired and appreciative of Nancy’s continued devotion to her work. Despite the circumstances, she hasn’t lost sight of her commitment to compassionate care or let anything slow her down. Thank you to Nancy and all healthcare professionals for working through this COVID-19 crisis. We couldn’t do this without you!