Dawn Schneider did not think twice about being assigned to care for the first COVID-19 patient at Parkview Regional Medical Center.
A registered nurse, Schneider has been working in Fort Wayne for 34 years and even amid this past year's unprecedented challenges, her selfless attitude has not wavered.
“I was given an assignment to care for someone who needed my help, my expertise ... you just do it,” Schneider said. “You see that person, you train, you know what you need to do, and you just apply what you've learned over the years.
Everything changed, including Schneider's daily routine, due to the coronavirus outbreak. Grocery shopping after work and eating at restaurants are no longer options. The nurse goes straight home from work every day to throw her scrubs in the laundry and take a shower.
“Over the years, I've taken care of lots of people with infectious diseases,” Schneider said, “but I wasn't worried before about my hairdresser getting it.”
Schneider was already full time, but she began volunteering for additional shifts. Because so many on her team also volunteered, she said understaffing has never become an issue.
“Every single day there was so much new information flying at us that it was almost stressful coming to work,” Schneider said of the first few months of the pandemic.
Schneider said she has had numerous calls from family and friends seeking advice on what precautions to take, and she is more than willing to educate and support them.
“One of my biggest concerns – maybe selfishly so – is my family,” Schneider said.
“I'm doing my darnedest to stay healthy myself,” said Schneider, who is taking vitamin supplements and getting as much sleep as possible between shifts.
The Parkview nurse has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Schneider said she felt called to be a nurse at a young age. She values the attachments to patients, but those connections come at an emotional price when it's clear that death is more imminent than recovery.
“It's hard to say goodbye to someone you've put so much energy into helping,” Schneider said, adding that the nurses are the ones holding the hands of COVID-19 patients so that families are not exposed to the virus.
Two things Schneider values the most having lived through a pandemic are her Parkview peers and her family. She and her husband, Bruce, have five children and four grandchildren.
“Not being able to spend time with my grandkids has been very hard, but I know it's the right thing to do,” Schneider said.