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Former student, TC-native nurse departs for NYC

April 8, 2020

Karissa HavensOver the last few months, in between her nursing shifts in a Kalamazoo hospital’s medical intensive care unit, Karissa Havens (right) followed the worsening COVID-19 epidemic as it swept from China to Europe to the United States.

The Traverse City West High School graduate, who attended NMC from 2013-2014 before transferring to Western Michigan University for her nursing degree, knew she had the skills to help both patients and overwhelmed hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots. She felt called to go where they were desperately needed.

Next week, she is. Havens, 24, has accepted a six-week traveling nurse position in a COVID-19 ICU unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She was able to find a job within two days of deciding to leave Kalamazoo.

“I am completely humbled by this opportunity and ready to give everything I can to help fight this terrible virus,” Havens posted on Facebook announcing her move.

Callie LeamanShe will arrive in New York on the heels of 2015 nursing graduate and adjunct instructor Callie Leaman (left). Leaman, an ER nurse at Munson Medical Center, arrived in the epidemic’s epicenter Tuesday. She is working in midtown Manhattan at New York University Langone Health in a COVID-19 ICU unit.

Havens has not yet cared for any COVID-19 patients at her current hospital, Bronson Methodist, but she and her colleagues have researched how the disease has progressed in countries ahead of the U.S., studying patient presentation and care protocols.

“I don’t know if anything will really prepare me,” Havens said. For instance, Mount Sinai is establishing a tent annex in Central Park, directly opposite its building, to care for patients.

At NMC Havens took nursing prerequisite courses, including cell plant and ecosystem biology and chemistry. She remembers instructor Greg LaCross’s classes as among her favorites. She was also on the Dean’s List.

“I have no doubt she has made a difference in people's lives, especially now, when our healthcare workers are so needed,” LaCross said.

She first considered going to Detroit, another hot spot, to help out her home state. But Detroit hospitals weren’t taking first-time traveling nurses. A licensing issue cropped up when she considered Chicago. But her qualifications were welcome in New York.

Havens begins work at Mount Sinai April 14. Her contract runs through May 31, though she expects it will likely be extended. It’s been most difficult to find affordable housing, though she thinks she’s found a temporary place. It’s a half-hour commute from the hospital, so she hopes the city keeps public transit running. She feels as ready for the challenge as she can be.

“I don’t have any kids, I’m not married. It’s just me and a dog. I’m the perfect candidate to go,” Havens said.

Her dog, Zaas, will stay with her parents in Interlochen. As for the general public, “Keep quarantining, and if possible, try and donate blood,” Havens said.


Do you know a helper or hero with NMC connections? Please share stories of students, instructors, alumni and community members stepping up during the COVID-19 epidemic by emailing publicrelations@nmc.edu.

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