COVID-19 Resources

On the Front Lines with Kate Welling, RN

Jul. 26, 2020

Education Coordinator for the Stepdown Unit and ICU at West Chester Hospital shares her experience treating patients during COVID-19.

Over the past four months, caregivers at UC Health have come together to treat COVID-19 patients. This may include performing new tasks, working more hours, or taking on different roles than they previously had. Physicians, nurses and hospital staff continue to do everything they can to give patients the best care during these uncertain times.

Katelyn (Kate) Welling, RN, is an education coordinator in the Stepdown Unit at UC Health’s West Chester Hospital. Since 2017, she’s worked closely with both the Stepdown Unit and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by educating her staff on hospital policies and procedures. The Stepdown Unit, also known as a transitional unit, is an area in the hospital that provides an intermediate level of care between the ICUs and general medical-surgical wards.

Although Kate’s role includes responsibilities in the office, she also jumps in and works side-by-side with her team to help or to see where additional education is needed.

“When I took over the education role about three years ago, my biggest thing was that I made a dedication of always being on the floor,” Kate said. “My biggest thing was how I am going to educate our staff or keep them up to date if I’m not working the floor myself?”

Recently, we spoke with Kate to get her perspective on COVID-19 and how it has affected her role in patient care. As someone who works closely on the front lines, she was able to share how she and her team have handled the pandemic.

With West Chester Hospital being the first in the region to see COVID-19-positive patients, Kate and her team had to prepare for a potential surge or, at the very least, an influx of patients showing symptoms for the virus.

Kate also had to work swiftly to get her staff the appropriate information, which continues to change daily. This includes what personal protective equipment (PPE) staff needs to wear, what are the new visitor policies and how to handle isolation protocols for infected patients.

Kate has been accustomed to leaving her office to work the floor as needed, but during the pandemic, she feels it is important to lead by example and spend as much time with her team as necessary.

“When I saw that COVID-19 was getting worse in the Tri-State, I decided to take myself out of the office and work the floor with my staff. Just to be a resource and to let them know that I was on the front lines with them,” Kate explained. “I’m always dedicated to my staff and whatever they need.”

While going into COVID-19-positive patient rooms may seem frightening, Kate and her staff have been selfless and brave, taking every precaution to keep patients and themselves safe.

Even though she never imagined working as a nurse during a global pandemic, Kate has made sure that her colleagues know West Chester Hospital’s policies and procedures in order to provide the best care to COVID-19 and non-COVID patients.

When asked how safe it is to come to the hospital right now, Kate confirmed that it’s the safest place to be. There are many precautions in place to ensure patients are safe at all times, from the moment they walk through the hospital doors.

“We have proper PPE and we are properly donning and doffing it, practicing hand hygiene and cleaning all of our patient rooms thoroughly,” Kate explained. “Our team has really stepped it up.”

Kate expressed how important it is that people received the care they need as soon as possible. While it can seem intimidating to come to the hospital during COVID-19, patients will be safe, and all policies and procedures in place are meant to ensure this.

Learning Lessons and Teamwork

Even though COVID-19 continues to impact our world, Kate has already learned valuable lessons that she will carry with her for the rest of her career.

She learned how important it is to slow down at times and develop strong relationships with her patients.

Some patients spend weeks, or months, in the hospital battling for their lives after being diagnosed with COVID-19. With visitor restrictions in place at West Chester Hospital, patients may not have been able to see their loved ones in person, meaning they were isolated for an extended time. During this time, patients may have only had interaction with hospital staff.

“Having that personal connection with them is better than just going in and seeing them periodically,” Kate said. “Slowing down and actually having more one-on-one time with our patients has shown me how important your bedside manner is and how important it is to have that connection. We need to remember that our patients need those connections with us.”

Kate has also used COVID-19 as a learning opportunity for future viruses and diseases. She believes that some of the policies and procedures that have resulted from COVID-19 may be useful even when the pandemic is over.

As difficult and emotional as the pandemic has been, Kate remains inspired by her team and the rest of the staff at West Chester Hospital. This has been vital for the hospital to continue to provide world-class care to patients and their families.

“I’ve never seen better teamwork than what I’ve seen over the past few months,” Kate proudly said. “The way we’ve come together for our patients during this challenging time has been amazing.”

Kate remains grateful for her team’s selflessness along with the massive support from the local community. All of this has allowed her to continue to battle COVID-19 on the front lines with her colleagues and be a hero for her patients.

Even on the most stressful days, Kate and the rest of our physicians and clinicians at West Chester Hospital remain a source of hope for our community.