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Greater Milwaukee Area nurses travel to Jacksonville, Florida to fight surge of COVID-19 cases

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Posted at 7:08 PM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-02 20:16:29-04

MILWAUKEE — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Wisconsin, they’re also spiking in Florida at record levels. On Sunday, three local nurses flew to Jacksonville to help their colleagues fight the pandemic after a sendoff at Mitchell Airport.

Nursing was a calling for Michelle Pinkert and her colleague, Megan Eckes. They both work at Ascension in Franklin where they remain on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, when Ascension was looking for nurses to assist at their sister hospital in Jacksonville, they immediately signed up.

“I want to be able to put my skills to use there and hopefully we can help out,” Eckes said.

They’re going to a hospital 10 times larger than Franklin in a state that continues to see more than 9-thousand new cases a day.

Pinkert can only imagine what she will be walking into.

“I’m not looking at it as like am I going to be too overwhelmed because everyday nursing can be overwhelming, so you just never know everyday what you’re going to get,” Pinkert said.

Vice President of Patient Care at Ascension Franklin, Sheila Gansemer said the program offers her staff a unique opportunity.

“They understand the magnitude of what they’re going to do and the help that is needed,” Gansemer said.

Currently, Wisconsin is seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Gansemer said the trip was planned before the latest surge, and that they have the resources here to maintain care locally.

Before the nurses boarded their flight, colleagues and loved ones sent the nurses off with a prayer and good wishes. It forced reality to set in for Eckes, as she left her husband and four kids behind.

“I know that I’ll keep myself safe so that I can come home safely to them, so that’s what I’m going for,” Eckes said.

The nurses will be in Florida for two weeks. They’re expected to return to Wisconsin on Aug. 15.

Another group of Ascension nurses from Wisconsin also traveled to Texas in early July to care for COVID-19 patients. Some of the nurses just got back, but a few extended their stay.

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