Mother Nature might need to be thanked for jump-starting Krista Beiermann’s love affair for health care.
Beiermann was only 16-years-old and living in her hometown of Osceola one day when inclement weather forced the cancellation of school and planned Halloween activities.
“There was a snowstorm, a blizzard. So I was going to stay home and had planned to enjoy the day watching movies and then our power went out,” Beiermann recalled. “We lived out in the country – so we had no power, no electricity.”
Her father was a handyman and mother was a bedmaker at the local nursing home at that time, so her parents explained to her how a lot of the staff there was having trouble getting to and from work due to the weather. In light of being short-staffed, they asked their daughter to step up. She admittedly went at first because she wanted out of the cold, but, something happened.
“It was cold, so I was very anxious to get out of the house and go someplace warm and I didn’t know what to expect. They (parents) made me go, but the residents and the staff at the nursing home were great,” she said. “I definitely thought it was something I could do and love.”
She was hooked.
Fast forward years later, Beiermann is a longtime and valuable staff member of Columbus Community Hospital, where she handles risk management, safety and infection prevention. She also is part of CCH’s Incident Command team as its technical specialist. That group, comprised of various staff members, are among the many on the frontlines of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and helping lead the health care entity through what is undoubtedly a trying time for all.
“Krista often goes unrecognized for her hard work to keep us safe and infection-free while working tirelessly to reduce spread in our community and preparing for the projected increase in patients needing care,” said Amy Blaser, CCH vice president of physician relations/business development. “In a pandemic situation, infection prevention and control procedures are vital to protect health care workers and patients. Education from reliable, unbiased sources such as Krista provides easily accessible information to ensure all health care workers understand the necessary precautions and procedures. With concerns over the spread of the virus, health and safety policies are also vital to ensuring adequate staffing to care for those affected by COVID-19.”
Growing up in the nearby small town of Osceola, Beiermann said her childhood was plenty of fun. That experience in the nursing home as a teenager solidified her career path. After graduation, she went to the University of Nebraska at Kearney for one year to get through her general education. Then, she attended Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing in Omaha and obtained her Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Soon after graduation, in 1997, she married the man who is now her husband, Steve. He was working as a meteorologist in Omaha, so she got a job at what is today known as Nebraska Medicine working as a cardiovascular rehabilitation nurse specialist. The job, she noted, was quite enjoyable.
“I worked with all heart patients – after they had a heart attack, procedures and surgeries,” she said. “My role was to educate them about their heart disease and provide guidance and healthy ways to recover.”
RIGHT AT HOME IN COLUMBUS
After four years, the Beiermanns decided to relocate back to Steve’s hometown of Columbus. They’ve made a home here, where they raise their three children, Zack, a freshman at the University of Nebraska Lincoln; Zane, a sophomore at Scotus Central Catholic; and Addi, a sixth-grade student at St. Isidore’s.
Although free time comes sparingly at the moment, when Beiermann does get it, among her favorite things to do is relax and watch “funny movies” to get her mind off of work.
Upon moving to Columbus, Beiermann was able to get a job at CCH working in surgery for four years before moving over to Occupational Health Services. She was later promoted to clinical nurse manager, a job she held for eight years, before being promoted yet again to her current role seven years ago.
“And I have been here ever since,” Beiermann said.
Her ordinary job sees her work to ensure the safety of patients and staff, reduce risks to patients and constantly improving upon and evolving CCH’s safety processes, among other things. Essentially, she wears a ton of different hats.
But since the pandemic hit, she’s taken on plenty more responsibility. As the Incident Command team’s technical specialist, there’s hardly a dull moment.
“Since the end of February, Krista’s workday has completely transformed, but one thing that has remained constant is her steadfast and confident commitment to infection prevention in every facet our organization: Working vigilantly to keep our staff and patients healthy. Krista has given so much of herself in the work she does every day which is truly commendable. Krista’s daily schedule has become much more chaotic, changing sometimes hourly as she provides infection control guidance and education to ensure staff feels comfortable and safe with many new and different processes because we are doing things that we normally don’t do in non-pandemic situations,” Blaser said, noting Beiermann is one of five resource nurses rotating to help staff the internal 27/7 CCH hotline.
“In epidemiology, the concern is always trying to decrease or flatten a big spike in cases, the curve, and so that we can keep admissions under what our capabilities and response mechanisms are, in health care. What Krista and our health care team have been tireless focusing on is to have everybody practice good infection control measures like social distancing, staying home when you're sick, and washing your hands. Those are the biggest pieces that really help flatten the curve.”
Beiermann is in a somewhat unique situation as early on she assumed the lead for coordinating testing results received through the public health and commercial labs, making sure the tests are received in a timely manner, and managing communications with patients and physicians.
“I’m very honored I’m working with such an amazing team,” she said back in April. “We have implemented many different things throughout the last six weeks. We have been working really hard to prevent the spread, flatten the curve, decrease the risk and protect staff and patients.”
She acknowledged there is always a level of concern when working through what is an uncertain time, noting it was nerve-racking to a degree as they awaited the inevitable first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in Platte County.
“When I got the call, I was getting gas in the car, so I dropped everything and rushed back to work.” she said.
Fortunately, she said, the hospital staff’s hard work has paid off. Everyone has always used a “prepare for the worst” approach, so there were plenty of conversations had and measures taken prior to the pandemic.
“We do these tabletop drills and come up with scenarios. It can’t compare to what we do upon something’s appearance like this, but they’re great learning lessons,” Beiermann explained. “We have really done some great things at our hospital.”
Beiermann, according to Blaser, has held a lead role in providing guidance in CCH staff’s use of surgical masks and N95 respirators in association with its infection control program.
“Krista is an excellent infection control resource for our entire organization (and community) and she is not afraid to work alongside our frontline team members in the trenches. Her goal is always to protect our employees and protect our patients, keeping everyone safe. She is continually educating while reminding us all to seek and apply information from legitimate, accurate sources to help guide the safest decisions for all key stakeholders,” Blaser said.
“Gaining a true understanding of the patients' perspective enables Krista to best appreciate the work of our physicians, nurses and other caregivers. I am inspired by Krista’s ability, commitment and compassion to do 'right' by all those we serve. I am grateful for her insight, passion and the way she helps keep our focus on what is important. Krista is a thoughtful individual who is committed to continuously improving health care, providing a remarkable experience for our patients and making a lasting difference in people's lives.”
What’s helping Beiermann through all of this is her family, who is holding things down on the homefront so she can focus on keeping CCH staff and patients healthy and safe. She said her oldest is making sure his younger siblings are getting their schoolwork done now that they’re all working out of the house. They also occasionally cook meals for her.
It’s a challenging time right now, but Beiermann said she knows she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing.
“I don’t think I would trade it,” she said of her decision to enter health care years ago. “It’s hard to imagine what’s going on in New York City, Italy, Japan, all of those places, but what really hits home is thinking about what happens if my loved ones get this.
"We wanted to make sure that we were prepared, which is why there have been all the extra hours and time everyone has put in. I’m proud to work with a great team; I wouldn’t change it. And we’re definitely going to come out of this stronger.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.
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