ER Work Helps Nurse See Coronavirus From All Sides | WGLT

ER Work Helps Nurse See Coronavirus From All Sides

May 4, 2020

McLean County registered nurse Abbi Sorrells has worked on the front lines of the pandemic. She says she understands the desire to reopen parts of the economy.

But what she finds “maddening” are the images she’s seen of anti-lockdown protestors angrily confronting medical professionals who showed up to counter their rallies.

“Because at the end of the day, that nurse is going to take care of that patient who is in their face screaming at them,” Sorrells said. “And we're not trying to cause any problems. We're just trying to be some part of the solution, and I feel like some people don't understand that.”

Sorrells, a Democrat who is running for McLean County coroner in November, is working as a contract nurse at a Bloomington-Normal hospital. She’s working in the emergency department.

It’s given her a unique perspective on the question of when and how to reopen Illinois.

“I definitely see both aspects of wanting to open versus wanting to stay locked down. And there's definitely been some increased mental health issues, overdose concerns and domestic violence,” said Sorrells.

She also knows that the virus is taking a financial toll on residents everywhere.

“I have friends who are not eligible for unemployment, who are basically subcontracted employees and they're definitely feeling the financial consequences of this,” she said.

At the same time, Sorrells said she believes people are not doing enough to protect themselves in public places.

“The thing that's slightly frustrating for me as I feel that when I go to the grocery store, I always wear a mask because I have been exposed to COVID patients, and I don't want to be responsible for being one of those silent carriers. And I don't feel that many people wear masks in the grocery store,” Sorrells told WGLT last week, before mandatory mask-wearing went into effect.

Working At The Hospital

Sorrells previously worked for OSF HealthCare but left in 2017 to pursue travel nursing. She’s also worked as a flight nurse. She’s in school full-time right now for her nurse practitioner's degree, though with her clinicals canceled because of the coronavirus she decided to work on contract at a local hospital.

Sorrells said it’s “super strange” at the hospital right now. Patient volumes are down across the country, with elective procedures only starting to resume this month in Illinois.

In her emergency department. If someone comes in with respiratory symptoms or anything else on a long list of triggers, they’re put in isolation and treated as if they have the coronavirus. That means nurses like Sorrells have to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) and the names are logged for everyone going into the patient's room.

Overall, her ER is seeing fewer patients than normal—but they tend to be sicker.

“In the old world of emergency medicine, people would come in for anything. It kind of served as the primary care place for people,” Sorrells said. “But people have wanted to stay away recently (because of the coronavirus). And so we are seeing truly emergent cases. A lot of them are sicker people. It’s higher acuity.”

So far, Sorrells said the staff at her hospital has had enough PPE to do their jobs safely.

“As soon as we're in the door, we have to have a mask on,” said Sorrells. “And that mask stays on all day.”

For Sorrells, being a nurse had nothing to do with heroism.

“We are just doing what we're supposed to do. And when I took a contract, it wasn't to be a hero. It was to go help people because that's why you became a nurse ... to help people.”

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