Alexander City resident Robbie Haynie never imagined his first year as a nurse practitioner would be during the battle of a global pandemic. As a nurse for seven years at Russell Medical, Haynie graduated as a family nurse practitioner from Troy University in May 2019 and is now on the front line alongside other medical professionals treating patients with COVID-19 on a daily basis.

“I’m fairly new to this and just getting comfortable with myself and what I do,” Haynie said. “My first year and now I’m in a pandemic but I’m not alone in this. I’m equipped with supplies and the people I work with and the community support has been excellent.”

Haynie works full time in the emergency room but also handles hospital medicine so once patients are admitted and tested positive for the coronavirus, he plays a hand in managing their hospital stay.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” Haynie said. “At first there was the fear of the unknown and it was new to all of us. Initially it’s almost a feeling of being overwhelmed. The first case we got I thought, ‘Oh gosh; it’s here.’”

But Haynie said the team at Russell Medical has done massive amounts of research and continues to adjust the way it assesses patients.

“I work with some incredible folks; they’re really intelligent,” Haynie said. “They’ve been on top of everything as far as management and the docs here just jumped right on in kind of knowing how to assess the patients so we could properly diagnose them and research how to treat them appropriately with the little bit of research we have out now.”

When the first positive case hit Alexander City, Haynie joked he thought his wife, Beth, was going to make him move in with his mother as the couple has a 4-month-old at home.

“My wife set up a hamper in the garage so once I get home, I strip down there and make a bolt for the shower,” he said. “With Hayes at 4 months old, I still hold him and play with him; I’m around him all the time. I just don’t kiss him and get in his face. I feel like I’m talking out the side of my mouth when I have him.”

Haynie said the hospital is great about staying equipped so he doesn’t worry about exposing his family but still wants to take every precaution possible.

“I’ve been given just what I need,” he said. “I double mask — wear my N95 mask and a mask over that — we have all the gowns and everything. Hand sanitizing is a big thing. If I’m walking down the hallway, I just hit it every time I see one.”

The unpredictable nature of the contagious disease is concerning to Haynie as medical professionals still don’t have all the answers despite doing the best they can.

“I’ve seen really young individuals be hospitalized and be critical and not turn out well and then I’ve seen patients who do really well and have no medical history and still end up not doing well,” he said. “Some have surprised us and I think, ‘Well I’ll be; we’re doing something right.’”

Working in the ER can be daunting but Haynie said the screening tents set up outside really help stop foot traffic through the area to expose as few people as possible.

“We have our plan outside where we screen people and ask questions and if we feel they’re a candidate to be tested (for the coronavirus), we do it,” Haynie said. “I felt a little uncomfortable about the whole thing at first but in my opinion it’s getting better. What we’re doing is working and I feel good about it. My team has really kept their poise and are working tirelessly.”

At the end of the day, Haynie’s best advice is to follow the rules in place for everyone’s safety.

“I think all I can tell everyone is abide by the laws and rules we have right now; stay home unless you have to get out or go to work; limit exposure; keep 6 feet away,” he said. “Just being here in the hospital I see what it can do to people, so I don’t take it lightly at all. I just keep it real with everyone. This is what can happen if you don’t take it lightly.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.