OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nurses play a vital role in our society; without the profession, American healthcare would suffer greatly.
Nurses care for sick patients and provide vital support for other medical professionals.
This fact is especially true at the Veterans Health Administration.
Locally, the Omaha VA Medical Center serves a population of more than 160,000.
The organization's website claims the facility serves 101 counties across Nebraska, western Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.
During the ongoing global pandemic, VA nurses were challenged just like their colleagues from health care facilities across America.
Iraq war veteran Nick Hornig is one of those VA nurses.
Hornig talked about what it was like being on the front lines of COVID-19 at the start.
"At the beginning, it was more of the fear of the unknown," said Hornig. "We never really seen anything like that."
Healthcare professionals did not know what to expect. Scientists were still trying to figure out how the virus affected the human body or how the virus could spread.
Hornig described what those first few days, which turned into weeks and months, were like.
"There was still a little bit of unknown. Going into the room. There was so much to think about before you went into the room and put in all the personal protective equipment, like, okay, I need to draw blood labs. I need to give him these medications. I need to get their vital signs. I need to do all this stuff, but I don't want to be going in and out of the room," Hornig described. "So, I got to think before I go in there, I need what do I need? And it just took, like, a lot of planning and stuff at first."
His patients came from all ages, backgrounds, and military branches. Hornig had patients who pulled through and some who did not appear healthy enough to make it.
Eventually, the Iraq War veteran caught COVID-19 while working, risking his own life and safety to care for his patients.
"I remember I got real sick in, like, April of 2020 right after it first started and, you know, high fever. I could hear if I like, fluid in my lungs and, but ironically, I tested negative," said Hornig. "But I can tell multiple stories of a patient who's tested positive and negative in the same day."
Despite the potential dangers of the job, Hornig says it's important to give back to his community.
"For me, being a veteran, just. I just feel like they deserve real good care," said Hornig.