College of Arts & Letters alumna Grace Vivanco is helping lead the fight against COVID-19 at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit as one of the nurses working in the hospital’s COVID unit.
For Vivanco, who graduated from MSU in 2017 with a BA in Spanish and then earned her BSN from Oakland University’s accelerated nursing program, there is no typical day in the hospital’s COVID unit. The first few months of the pandemic were especially difficult.
“When COVID hit Michigan, we had no information, and everyday something changed in the way we were trying to take care of these patients,” Vivanco said. “The hardest part about working on this unit was trying to console patients. Everyone was so scared and they would ask if they were going to survive this, or moments before they were intubated we would let them FaceTime their family in order to say goodbye, not knowing if they would be able to be extubated. Every day was hard; it was probably the hardest four months of my life.”
“The hardest part about working on this unit was trying to console patients. Everyone was so scared and they would ask if they were going to survive this, or moments before they were intubated we would let them FaceTime their family in order to say goodbye, not knowing if they would be able to be extubated.”
Finding time to slow down and stay positive has proven difficult for Vivanco and her coworkers, but they have found small ways to support one another through the hardships of the pandemic.
“We support each other in different ways at work. We always made sure to work as a team and help each other out when we have a bad day,” Vivanco said. “We are always there to talk to each other and sometimes we are able to make each other laugh and just talk about something normal.”
Vivanco has a passion for helping others, which is why she chose to pursue a nursing career.
“I always knew I wanted to be in a field where I was helping people,” she said. “Nursing is a way to help people and be involved in their care. I love the bedside aspect of it and getting to know your patients on a more personal level.”
Before attending the accelerated nursing program at Oakland University, Vivanco worked as a nursing assistant at the Colombiere Center, a nursing home for retired Catholic priests in Clarkston, Michigan.
“Working at the Colombiere Center made me realize that nursing was the right choice for me,” she said. “Since I worked there for over 5 years, I got to know the priests who lived there and they became like another family for me and my coworkers. That job showed me how to be compassionate and patient.”
Her Spanish degree also has proven useful as a nurse by being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients.
“We have had a few patients who only speak Spanish. This has definitely helped my nursing career because I am able to communicate with these patients in a way that no one else can,” Vivanco said. “The patients are always so grateful and more at ease.”
We have had a few patients who only speak Spanish. This has definitely helped my nursing career because I am able to communicate with these patients in a way that no one else can. The patients are always so grateful and more at ease.
The Spanish language has always been an important part of Vivanco’s life, as her father is from Ecuador and currently still lives there. Pursing a Spanish degree at MSU gave her the skills to better communicate with her family.
“I grew so much while at MSU. The one thing I will never forget that I learned at MSU was not to give up on my dreams,” said Vivanco, who applied but wasn’t accepted into MSU’s nursing program.
“After not getting into the Nursing School my sophomore year, I thought that meant I wasn’t meant to be a nurse,” she said. “But after two years of being at MSU, I realized that nursing was still what I wanted to do and just because I didn’t get accepted into the program, it didn’t mean I wasn’t supposed to be a nurse.”
Working on the COVID-19 frontlines at Ascension St. John Hospital has given Vivanco nursing skills that will stick with her for the rest of her career.
“The biggest learning experience during [the pandemic] is just how important it is to have great people in your life who support you,” she said. “I also learned that I want to pursue a career in an ICU next and maybe go back to school to be a Nurse Practitioner.”