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Registered Nurse Hope Walk, center, and fellow Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center emergency department workers, from left to right, Kristen Knight, Chelsie Gast, Kacy Ross and Macy Brown, wear headbands donated to them that help protect their ears from the elastic of their face masks. Walk and her fellow medical workers are essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hope Walk of Effingham is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines.

The 24-year-old registered nurse works in the emergency department at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon. She is an essential worker.

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People keeping us afloat during the COVID-19 crisis

Walk said she considers she and her fellow medical workers essential every day, even when there is not a pandemic.

“Being in the emergency room, we already consider ourselves essential,” Walk said. “Being a relatively new nurse still, I never thought I’d be working through a pandemic like this. It’s a crazy thought and should make for some good stories to tell our kids and grandkids in the future.”

“We’re here ready and ready to care for those with acute or chronic conditions. Heart attacks and strokes don’t stop just because there’s a pandemic. Accidents still happen,” Walk added.

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Registered Nurse Hope Walk dons personal protective equipment as she works in the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walk has worked for Sarah Bush for two years now and said going into the nursing field is something she’s always wanted to do. She said she enjoys helping others and making a difference in their lives.

Walk said she enjoys taking care of every patient she comes in contact with, and those relationships she’s able to form with her patients and also with her coworkers are especially important in a time when people have to be physically apart.

Though the caring nature of her profession has not changed, Walk said some work procedures have been altered.

“Standard precautions are still extremely important. The difference now is that we’re wearing our standard surgical masks at all times while on hospital campus,” Walk said.

There are extra steps when a COVID-19 case might be entering the department, Walk added.

“When it comes to persons under investigation, we follow the instructions from the CDC, wearing N95s or (Power Air-Purifying Respirator) hoods, eye protection, gloves and gowns. We’re always being educated and re-educated on proper ways of putting on and taking off our personal protective equipment to protect ourselves and our patients from cross contamination, “ Walk said. “A lot of employees in direct patient care have chosen to wear the surgical scrubs provided by the hospital. Others are wearing regular scrubs and bringing a change of clothes to change into after a shift.”

Walk said waiting areas at the hospital are also being cleaned more frequently as are persons under investigation rooms. She said the emergency room now has two reverse airflow rooms, and practices at the hospital are evolving along with the novel coronavirus.

Walk said she has started to change her shoes before getting into her car after her shifts as to not bring anything into her vehicle or home. Walk described herself as a homebody, so the stay-at-home order hasn’t been too difficult for her and has allowed her to get projects done around her home.

Walk has had the support of her family and friends every step of the way as she continues to work during the pandemic. She said they are worried for her safety but understand she and her coworkers are taking the necessary precautions to remain healthy.

Walk said she is also grateful for the SBL administration for being transparent about the situation and also being a reliable resource for its workers. She also extended her gratitude and some advice for fellow medical workers.

“Keep up the good work. This time is so stressful and overwhelming. I’m constantly amazed by the way people keep coming together to help each other out. The amount of donations of supplies, time and food has been incredible. We can’t express how thankful we are for anyone or any company that has made donations,” Walk said. “I’d like to remind everyone not to forget about our co-workers in environmental services and all those behind the scenes keeping us safe.”

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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