One year in, nurses spread hope amid pandemic

Spectrum Health Emergency Room
Posted at 6:40 AM, Mar 10, 2021

We could all use some inspiration, especially as we cross the threshold of one year into this pandemic. Two nurses with Spectrum Health are sharing their stories of trials and triumph, now sending their message of hope to the future.

Kendra Peot is the managing nurse for Spectrum Butterworth Hospital’s emergency department and tells FOX 17 that simply thinking about that last year is taxing.

“We’re a Level I trauma center here in Grand Rapids,” Peot said. “Looking back on this year, it’s one I’ll obviously never forget.”

The thousands of lives lost is a difficult burden to bear for those who’ve dedicated their lives to fight COVID-19. Peot says the pandemic obviously took precedent, but her team was faced with one disruption after another.

“We dealt with things like civil unrest, and we had a lot of disturbances that are very unsettling for an emergency department,” Peot said. “We had to manage all that alongside this pandemic.”

Of the 31,000 workers at Spectrum Health, 3,400 (more than 10 percent) of their employees were infected with the virus at some point. Peot says the hospital has returned to a the three-percent admittance rate for COVID patients and says she finds hope in the downward trend.

However, the trauma incurred by frontline workers is incalculable. For those working in that environment who didn’t get COVID, the stress from the pandemic forced nurses like Melissa Jones at Spectrum to change jobs completely.

“I was sick for about six weeks total before I got back to full steam,” Jones said.

Her story first aired on FOX 17 News back in December. The former nurse says her experience was emotionally taxing, and it gave her a new outlook on life.

“After almost a year of being in that environment, and taking all that (baggage) home, and not having a good place to put it, I took an opportunity to kind of reevaluate what my goals were,” Jones said. “And, for lack of a better explanation, I put myself first.”

After three years working as a nurse, Jones switched to a desk job with Spectrum. Her new title is senior clinical documentation specialist. She says the opportunity has breathed new life into her and her family. “I think it's made me appreciate time with my kids more, time with my parents more,” Jones said. “Being on lockdown has helped me appreciate going out for dinner, that’s for sure.”

Both Peot and Jones said they’re taking this time to shift their focus from what they’ve lived through to what they’ve learned. Peot said she’s grateful for the support from her community, now sharing her newfound hope with those around her.

“People were providing food for staff, sending numerous letters of gratitude, and recognizing health care workers over and over again,” Peot said. “And that really got us through as well.”

They say to let the positive stories take the spotlight, sharing hope in the shadow of one year that will never be forgotten.