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'Honored that we get to do this job': Arkansas nurse on caring for COVID-19 patients

Sarah Launius is an ICU nurse at UAMS who is helping treat COVID-19 patients.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Launius is an ICU nurse at UAMS, who said working directly with COVID-19 patients is a responsibility she and her colleagues do not take lightly.

"I'm honored that we get to do this job, that we get to take care of patients in their worst days," Launius said. "I've always felt that way but with everything going on now it's even more of an honor."

Launius, whose mom was also a nurse, began her RN career at UAMS after graduating from the University of Central Arkansas in 2017. She is certified in critical care but said COVID-19 presents new challenges.

"This type of nursing was not a course in school," she said. "We did not learn about pandemic nursing. It's just kind of a whole new thing. These are unprecedented times."

Those changes include the addition of personal protective equipment and new responsibilities.

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"It's different taking care of the patients because their families can't be here, so we're having to do FaceTime and talk on the phone a lot -- as much as we can -- to keep families informed.

"I know that is so hard for people right now, so we definitely feel that," Launius said.

As a wife and mom to a one-year-old, the virus is impacting her family even after she leaves work.

"I weighed a lot whether or not I need to stay away from my family when this started, and so far I've felt safe because we have had adequate supplies to keep us safe," she said.

But things do look different when she returns home.

"We have a decontamination station set up in my garage," Launius said. "I wash everything before I even go in the house. I change clothes in the garage and those clothes immediately go into the washing machine."

As her work in the ICU continues, Launius encourages people to take the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

"It is serious," she said. "People don't see it, and if you don't see it you don't know. But it is definitely a serious illness and it is affecting people and causing them to be critically ill.

"While it may never affect you personally we should always just wash our hands and follow the advice of our leaders because some people are really getting sick from this. We just all need to do the best we can."

Though Launius said she didn't choose a career in the medical field for accolades or praise, she and her colleagues are appreciative of the community support they have received amid the pandemic.

"I really just want to say thank you to our community for supporting the nurses and all of your medical staff right now -- especially during these times," she said. "We couldn't have ever asked for all of the outpouring of love and donations. Just thank you -- a big thank you from all of us at UAMS."

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