A Portland nurse is displaying Tennessee’s volunteer spirit as she finds herself on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Kristen Sprang has been working in Providence, Rhode Island, since early May as part of a COVID Crisis Team of medical professionals, sponsored by Aya Healthcare, a company that provides travel nurses across the nation.
“I’ve been in the medical field for about 13 years … worked at Vanderbilt for a while,” Sprang said of her nursing background. “I’ve done everything from OB/GYN to working in a pediatric clinic.”
Sprang said she wanted a new challenge and embraced travel nursing, which allows personnel to work in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities in short-term roles. Her COVID Crisis Team utilizes medical technicians, nurses and physicians.
“I had been checking into travel nursing for some time,” said Sprang, who added that it provides her with more opportunity to be home with her husband and children. “I had talked to a recruiter right before all this came out, and he had discussed some opportunities to work on a COVID Crisis Team.
“We’re sent to places that were hit pretty hard and need additional support.”
Sprang left for Providence on May 2, driving the entire way, and said her assignment in Rhode Island will last until June 6. At that point, she plans to return home for a while to spend time with her family.
Sprang talks with her family daily via Facetime, which helps ease the pain of being far from home.
“This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family and my kids,” Sprang said. “The transition has been a little difficult, but we’re making it work.”
Sprang has worked with a number of COVID-19 patients while in Providence and has also seen first-hand the lengths to which local governments have gone to try to contain the virus.
No restaurants are open, and virtually all tourist attractions are shut down, which she said makes filling the off hours challenging at times. Virtually all buildings that are open require patrons to wear masks before entering, “whether it’s the grocery store or the dollar store.”
“There’s not a whole lot you can do on your free time,” Sprang said. “I did spend one day walking around. I went to the coast and got to look at the ocean. Most of my downtime is spent low-key, catching up on Netflix.”
Sprang is staying at a local Airbnb, and the company reimburses for travel expenses such as lodging and food.
“We’re being pretty well taken care of,” Sprang said.
While at work, Sprang continues to see positive cases coming in, but Sprang said that the mortality rates seems to be lower than in other hot-spots like New York.
“We have had a handful (of deaths), but these were older patients who had a lot of underlying issues already,” Sprang said. “To say they died from COVID, I can’t say.”
Sprang feels fortunate to be able to work eight-hour shifts during her trip. Shifts for travel personnel can depend on the facility needs.
Personnel do not have to be tested daily for COVID-19 but do sign forms stating they have no symptoms and have not traveled outside the state. They also are required to undergo temperature checks before beginning their work shift.
Sprang added that personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks have been readily available throughout her time in Providence.
“We have everything that we need,” Sprang said. “That alleviated a lot of my fears.”
Sprang takes pride in being on the front lines during the biggest medical crisis the United States has faced in decades.
“I feel like I was helping to fight this crisis and making a difference,” Sprang said. “That’s the whole reason I got into nursing, and that’s what landed me here in Rhode Island.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.