Health care heroes: manning the ‘front door’

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Bryan Esler
Nurse manager Kendra Peot helped transform Butterworth's emergency department to help screen for COVID-19 patients.

Editor’s note: This is part two of a nine-part series on health care employees working during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more stories, click here.

It’s been more than a year since nurse manager Kendra Peot’s emergency department at Butterworth Hospital snapped into a battle footing against COVID-19. She can still call up the precise date: Friday, March 13.

“We were told around noon that we needed to stand up a tent outside the emergency department so that we could start screening patients for COVID,” she said.

But that’s no easy ask. Butterworth’s emergency ward is a level-one trauma center. It’s a central hub in West Michigan for injuries of all types — bullet wounds, catastrophic crash injuries and the like. To say things are busy would be a gross understatement.

“To re-route ambulance traffic and kind of change the whole flow of the emergency department in four hours is really impressive to do, and that was the ask,” Peot said. “And we did it.”

Peot describes her staff as the “front door” for Butterworth’s emergency department. For everything that happened in Grand Rapids this past year, they were a critical part of helping the hospital help patients — whether it was the pandemic or the midsummer unrest downtown.

“There was one night working that I recall. We had multiple gunshot victims coming in left and right. And so, there was a period of time (where) we kind of felt like from an emergency department team, like — how much more can we handle? What’s next?”

Vaccines have begun providing an answer to that question — and so has Kent County’s and the country’s willingness to mask up and stay home. The Washington Post reports that nearly 200 children died from the flu during the 2019-20 flu season. In the 2020-21 season, after social distancing and mask-wearing and remote work, just one died.

Peot said the community’s willingness to help has been a blessing.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with the number of people not only in health care but in the community that are lining up to get the vaccines,” Peot said. “I honestly was a little concerned, just hearing people say, ‘This is new, I’m not going to get it, I’m gonna wait.’ And so, I was really worried that this was gonna drag out for another 18 months.”

This story can be found in the May 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox each month, subscribe here

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