Any emergency room is chaotic: St. Peter’s Hospital nurses like Marshall Knauf and Jennifer Schumacher are used to the stream of patients.

“Emergency medicine is emergency medicine, so our nurses train for years many of them,” says Schumacher.

Schumacher is the nurse manager at St. Peter’s emergency department. She says the department has been taking precautions to keep patients safe and give them the best possible care.

They’ve also been making sure nurses are ready for whatever they encounter.

“I would say the biggest change we really noticed is how we prepare in the department, how we prepare our nurses, techs, ancillary staff for the ever coming changes that are coming with COVID,” says Schumacher.

It takes a team, including people like Knauf. He’s worked at St. Peter’s for about a year.

“The patients I see, the smiles I get, the times I get to hug them, the times I get to cry with them, that all means a lot to me,” says Knauf.

The reality is, just because the ER is fast-paced doesn’t mean the emotional strain is short-lived.

“I never really felt like a hero or an essential worker or a frontliner, it’s always I’m a nurse,” says Knauf. “I come to work, I help people.”

Messages and signs from the community also help in finding the beauty in the constant chaos. ER nurses say they’ve been overwhelmed by the kind notes, donated food, and messages of encouragement.

“We are so thankful as a department,” says Schumacher. “When you get into nursing, you do it because you love it, and to have people reach out and thank us for what we do every day was so kind.”

Knauf also has his own way of handling the stress and fear, by dancing for his co-workers and patients.

“My rationale is we don’t see people on good days, and so whatever I can do to bring a smile to your face, to get my patient to laugh, I take that as a win,” says Knauf.