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As healthcare workers around the United States deal with the influx of patients due to the coronavirus, hospitals are faced with unforeseen obstacles to overcome. In spite of this, many University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students and alumni have risen to the challenge of helping those who are sick while doing what they can to keep their community healthy.

Paahoua Xiong, a 2015 UWO nursing grad, balances her time as a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice-Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP FNP) program at UW Oshkosh and as a staff nurse in the emergency department at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, her day-to-day life of working as a nurse on the front lines has changed dramatically.

“Staff members in the department are expected to wear hospital-provided scrubs when they’re at work and must wear a face mask and eye protection at all times,” she said.

Along with the changes in personal protective equipment (PPE) at the hospital, Xiong said that there has been a drastic reduction in patient volume due to individuals following orders and staying at home unless absolutely necessary. Froedtert also has implemented a “no visitors” policy in order to reduce the number of people exposed to the virus.

“As difficult as these policies may be, they help keep everyone safe,” she said.

With the number of cases increasing, especially in the densely populated areas of Milwaukee, Xiong said one of the most important ways that she and her peers are rising to the challenges they face is to stand united during these unprecedented times.

“The camaraderie during this pandemic is phenomenal. We look out for each other and in a sense, we have become a big family that has each other’s backs. Everyone is always willing to help each other,” Xiong said.

This spring, Xiong developed the new UWO College of Nursing (CON) Alumni Association Chapter to provide grads the opportunity to remain engaged with their alma mater. Given the current environment, this new chapter has been important in allowing CON alumni to support each other and discuss their experiences of working in healthcare during the pandemic.

“As nurses, we share pieces of our current day-to-day responsibilities to encourage each other. We not only talk about the current struggles we face, but also focus on the wins from our care and dedication,” she said. “Along with this, we also share current policies and practices our healthcare systems are utilizing and implementing.”

Although it’s easy to be afraid and angry about the new reality created by the virus, Xiong urged others to try to focus on the bigger picture to stay optimistic. She also reminds people that this too shall pass, but everyone has to do their share until then.

“During this difficult time, it is important to remember a few things. First and foremost, thank you for staying at home. Please continue to stay at home so we can continue to flatten the curve. Along with this, it is important to continue to practice social distancing. Please sanitize and clean surfaces in your house and properly wash your hands often.

“Excellent teamwork is crucial for success. Each individual and position is a meaningful piece to the puzzle. Thank you to everyone for doing their part. Stay safe!”

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