Shane Carne, RN, never hesitated when the pandemic called him to a new role.

“As the COVID-19 crisis crept closer to West Michigan, we knew Spectrum Health was going to have to make some changes in order to deal with it,” said Carne, who had prior experience working in a neonatal intensive care unit. “I assumed with my care background, I may be needed elsewhere at this time.”

The first week of April, Carne left his operating room role at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital to join the intensive care unit team.

“It was fairly terrifying at first,” the Zeeland, Michigan, resident said. “You’re taking care of really sick people. But the unit and the people have been great. The manager and educator constantly check in to see how I’m doing. They provide reference guides to make sure I know where the supplies are and who I need to call if I have questions.”

Transitioning to an adult ICU from his former days as a NICU nurse has been challenging yet exciting.

“Although the patients are quite a bit bigger and the equipment is different, the nursing concepts are still the same,” he said. “After a few shifts, the intensive bedside care was, as they say, ‘like riding a bike.’”

To the best of his knowledge, he hasn’t cared for any COVID-19 positive patients. The ICU team keeps potentially and confirmed positive patients isolated.

He said he’s more than happy to help, wherever he can best assist patients and fellow team members.

“It’s one of the things I’ve always had in the back of my mind, to explore the adult ICU,” Carne said. “I’m learning so much—a lot that I can transfer back to the OR and taking care of my patients there, especially the surgical cases they’re going to send to the ICU. If there are ways to help set them up for success, I’d like to do that.”

Carne’s hours changed from working four 10-hour shifts to working two 12-hour shifts and two 8-hour shifts a week in the ICU.

It means he can’t tuck his almost-2-year-old daughter, Aubree, into bed every night like he and his wife, Maria, typically do together. But he said the need to help others in real life is greater right now than any fairytale bedtime story.

“I just told (Spectrum Health leadership) to use me how you need me and we’ll find a way to work it out,” Carne said, noting the importance of flexibility and being willing to give of yourself.

It proved helpful to start the ICU learning process early, in case more COVID-19 cases present.

“My manager said … let’s get you up there and get you trained so if it does become more worrisome, you’ve got a few weeks of training before the real business starts,” Carne said. “It’s a different look at patient care. In the ICU, you’re more the eyes. The doctors are looking at more patients, and you might have one or two. You have to tell them when you see there’s an issue.”

Carne is confident life will return to a sense of normal someday soon, when he’ll be able to resume cooking nightly dinners for his family, and tucking in his toddler.

“I’m looking forward to being on a normal schedule so my daughter can see me more,” Carne said. “But we can do anything for a short period of time.”

In the meantime, he’s happy to lend a hand.

“It feels good,” he said. “One of the things that helps is knowing I’m helping to relieve some of the burden for some of my fellow co-workers who would be having to take on more patients. I’m helping them out. And for our (leaders) to realize I’m flexible, it makes me feel valued that they recognize I have capabilities beyond what my current role is.”

Jordan Sella, Carne’s ICU manager, said he’s impressed.

“Shane has done a miraculous job of adapting to a role far outside his comfort zone,” Sella said. “From the first day we met he has been open, honest, respectful and rises to the challenge. He told me he understands these are trying times and that he wants to do whatever he can to help out. It’s as simple as that—he wants to do whatever he can to help out.”

Sella said without such willingness to change roles, his unit could be short-staffed.

“Shane really has a commitment to our organization and people like him are the reason we will get through this,” Sella said.