‘You could see that they were tired’: The journey of an Outside worker helping in Alaska hospitals

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 7:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The hundreds of out-of-state health care workers contracted by the state are starting to settle into their roles at hospitals across Alaska. One of them, registered nurse Linda Bruce from Middlesboro, Kentucky, is working at Alaska Native Medical Center until Dec. 27.

For Bruce, seeing Alaska has always been a dream. Now it’s a reality, but she never thought it would be a pandemic that got her here. She just saw her first urban moose the other day, and said it was awesome.

Inside the hospital hasn’t been as great. Bruce said when she and the other workers arrived and offered some help, she could tell the Alaska health care staff were in need of relief.

“You could see that they were tired,” Bruce said. “And that they were thankful that we were here. That way, they knew that they would be able to get their rest. They don’t have to feel guilty if they can’t pick up an extra shift. We’re here to help make that difference.”

Bruce said as long as she can walk, she can work. Given what she’s been up to since the pandemic began, it’s amazing she said she doesn’t feel tired either.

She and others in her position have been all over the country, chasing the virus wherever it gets the worst in order to lend a helping hand.

From Kentucky, she went to New York. Then California, and then Florida. Now, with Alaska’s high infection rates, COVID-19 on the Last Frontier is bad enough that it’s brought her here. In each place, Bruce has worked five days a week, 12 hours a day at least.

“And New York was so bad I worked seven days a week sometimes,” she said.

This is her favorite spot yet, at least as far as the people go.

“It’s just wonderful. I mean, people are just great here,” Bruce said. “Even the patients are so accepting. Because you know, cultures are different and they know I’m not from here.”

Since arriving here, Bruce has either been working, sleeping or seeing the sights. She hasn’t had time to notice that some in Alaska are speaking out against vaccines and refusing to wear masks. She said if you’ve seen it in one place, you’ve seen it everywhere.

“I figured it’s about the same as it was back home,” Bruce said. “You got those who oppose it and those who don’t. And if they had to see what we’ve seen, there’d probably be bigger lines to get the vaccine.”

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