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Celebrating Heroes Among Us: Spotlight on DiChera Helm ICU Nurse

07/23/2020 | Media Contact: Erin Mercer | (609) 343-4923
DiChera Helm '13

Many Atlantic Cape alumni are making a difference during COVID-19, including DiChera Helm. DiChera earned her associate degree in applied science, nursing, at Atlantic Cape, Class of 2013. She has been a cardiac nurse in the ICU for Inspira Health for almost two years. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2015 from Rutgers University. She also completed certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse and is board certified as a medical-surgical nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. All of the ICUs in the hospital where she works were converted to COVID units. Currently, there are 12 beds in her ICU and they are nearly full with vented COVID positive patients. Here is her story:

"Since COVID-19 has happened I have experienced so many different emotions. I remember first hearing about the virus in January when I was in a patient’s room. Never did I imagine that we would be where we are today. I have been experiencing what they are calling “pre-traumatic stress disorder” for healthcare workers. I am usually a very calm and positive person who never has had a panic attack in her life and I experienced one for the first time while home lying in bed. I have experienced a great deal of anxiety leading up to my work days. When I am at work the stress level is at an all-time high.

Our unit has been trying to stay positive with music and comfort food we all have been contributing to bringing. It has been very hard to watch my patients crash out of nowhere. We have been having almost 3-4 rapid response calls a day for COVID-19 positive med-surg patients. It has been very isolating for the nurses as well as the patients to be in the isolation rooms. It is ungodly hot and uncomfortable with all of the PPE we are wearing. At times we are in these rooms for four hours straight with no relief. We use baby monitors and whiteboards/windows while in the patients rooms to communicate with each other. This conserves PPE and limits exposure.

At times it is hard to make the personal connection with the patients who are so heavily sedated or paralyzed because they are intubated. I miss the interactions I would have with the patient’s visitors and comforting them when their loved ones lay so critical in a bed. Now I can only comfort them over the phone and assure them that I will be there for their loved one to hole their hand or watch them take their last breath.

I have the fear of taking this virus home to my small children. The first thing they want to do when I come home is hug me and I can no longer do that. I work in fear constantly that I will contract the virus, as it is so prevalent in our patient population and even coworkers now. It is something I have never experienced before and will be affected by it.

I never realized how important nurses are and I have been one since 2013. The outpouring of love and appreciation we are receiving has been very motivating. Many units within our own organization have sent care packages and written messages to lift each other’s spirit. It has definitely unified us and shown the world what is really important in life.

I have to thank Atlantic Cape I always commended my instructors and the program. They prepared my class and I so well and helped me with the foundations and basic knowledge to build on and become the nurse I am today. I am proud to be a critical care nurse and I will continue to fight for my patients when they cannot fight anymore.”

Visit Heroes of Atlantic Cape to read more stories about Atlantic Cape alumni serving their community during this pandemic.