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Valley nurse shares what it's like to care for patients as coronavirus looms

Karen is a home health nurse, seeing anywhere from 6 to 10 patients a day in their homes. They're all vulnerable, especially to the coronavirus - and they need her.

PHOENIX — As we see the number of COVID-19 cases rise in Arizona, there's no doubt the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the front lines are in a marathon battle, putting up a strong fight.

"I’m just so shocked with how many people are out on the road and where they could possibly be going?"

Karen Ellis has been taking social distancing seriously. She's only going out because she has to. She's a home health nurse, seeing anywhere from six to 10 patients a day in their homes. They're all vulnerable, especially to the coronavirus, and they need her.

"We’re using nursing theories that we learned in school how to triage patients and how to decide if they need to stay at home. Do they need to go see their doctor?  Are we putting them at more risk going to the hospital?"

Most everything has changed for her in the past few weeks.  She said her agency has taken on more patients, she's had more hours on the clock and everyone is taking more precautions.  

They're rationing protective gear, preparing for potential shortages. Ellis says she's been reaching out to businesses like salons and paint shops on her own to see if they'll donate masks.

"We have really stepped up our game," she says.

Outside of work, she's been staying home.  She's been isolating for weeks to protect herself and her patients.

"It's brutal," she says.  "Nurses have children, they have family, they have parents."

A balancing act that's tilted against her.

After we shot this interview, Ellis reached back out to let us know she came down with symptoms and is waiting on results to see if she has COVID-19, no longer able to go to work.

And right now, that's all she can do. Protect her patients by staying away.

"We’re really scared seeing patients we’ve known for years pass away from this virus, so we’re really willing to put up that fight to help."

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