Grace Chege is caring for COVID-19 patients with passion and positivity.
By Mariah C. Harper, Photo courtesy of Grace Chege
Grace Chege is no stranger to hard work or uncertainty. Originally from Kenya, Chege came to the United States in 2003 after winning a green card in the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. Only 22 at the time, she initially stayed with a sponsor in Fort Worth, Texas and took medical-assistant classes at Remington College. In 2007, she moved to Austin to work as a clinical assistant at Ascension Seton Medical Center while finishing her associate degree in nursing. Chege began nursing at Ascension Seton in 2012. The 38-year-old mother of four is currently a full-time student at the University of Texas at Arlington, completing her bachelor of science in nursing.
Chege works in the neurology, urology and ear, nose and throat unit, which was rapidly converted into a COVID-19 ward in March. Chege adapted her mindset to fit the new precarious norm, dropping her patient load, increasing safety measures and taking precautions outside of work since any exposure off the job could transfer to patients, too.
Despite the emotional nature of her present work environment, Chege remains positive. She was a nominee for the 2020 Ascension Nurse of the Year and credits her spiritual and emotional fitness with helping her navigate COVID-19. She is quick to praise Seton’s interconnected mobility and the countless individuals fighting together against the pandemic. Love for the profession keeps her motivated
Here’s how Chege is taking down COVID-19.
“I wake up early for my 12-hour shifts to eat breakfast and usually arrive at the hospital by 6:45 a.m. First thing I do is attend my unit’s huddle where we receive updates, our patient assignments for the day and reports for those patients. I review patient history and progress notes and then make individualized daily plans.”
“Routine in the COVID-19 unit is slightly different from a regular unit as I now do total care for my patients. I perform all assessments, take vital signs and discuss the patient’s daily plan with them. Nursing is continuous…I’m always assessing and adjusting interventions and, in a way, I’m like a cell nucleus. I coordinate care with physical and occupational therapists, inform doctors, communicate possible discharges with social workers and ask chaplains to update patient families. Currently, patients are scared and anxious. They want their loved ones beside them but, at this time, that isn’t possible. It’s not a situation I would wish on my worst enemy and I take care to reassure and educate patients, pointing out health improvements when possible.”
“In the morning, I eat eggs or oatmeal before heading to my shift. For lunch, I have started blending kiwis, strawberries, blueberries and yogurt into a plant-based protein smoothie. For dinner, I cook traditional African meals for my family.”
“My husband used to be a runner and he buys me shoes to wear during shift. He looks at my feet and the way I walk and buys shoes based off what he sees. I have a whole collection! Some of the brands I own are Adidas, Nike and Sketchers.”
“You have to love what you do. That goes for any job in the world. For me, the most rewarding part about nursing is patient education. I enjoy helping someone understand their medications or treatment plans and gaining their compliance. During this pandemic, I’m proud to work with such a supportive team and great management. Nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists might be front line, but we could not do our jobs without the help of everyone in the hospital. The housekeepers, cooks and nurse aids are also team members. Together, we beat this thing.”
“Moving forward, and with businesses reopening, everyone just needs to do their job. As a nurse, I always adhere to the hospital standard of infection control with hand washing, personal protective equipment and limited grocery trips. We will never know whether it’s over until we return to normal, but we still need to take personal responsibility.”
“I’m a full-time student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’m getting my BSN through an online program and, after the kids go to bed, I work on my courses.”