April 8, 2020
Over the last few months, in between her nursing shifts in a Kalamazoo hospital’s medical intensive care unit, Karissa Havens 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.
She will arrive in New York on the heels of 2015 nursing graduate and adjunct instructor Callie Leaman. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want a way to stand out from the crowd when it’s time to look for a job?
Consider a study abroad trip. Students who study abroad find a job twice as fast as those who don’t and earn $7,000 more, according to 2012 studies.
NMC Flight Instructor Abigail Smelzer as a student on a 2011 trip to the UK.
Moreover, in a global economy employers increasingly value study abroad experiences, but relatively few students take them, according to the Chicago Tribune. NMC Flight Instructor Abigail Smelzer is one who did and saw it pay off in her job hunt.
As an aviation student at NMC, she visited the United Kingdom in 2011 and South Africa in 2014. Steve Ursell, Head of International Aviation at NMC, said those trips gave Smeltzer an edge when the department was looking to employ flight instructors in August 2014.
“Her experience in both the UK and South Africa certainly assisted her in gaining a flight instructor position at NMC because we have a very active international program,” Ursell said.
“Because I went on the trip as a student, now I understand the whole point of what the international program is about,” Smelzer said.
“I believe in reciprocity, and the power of education. If there are ten people who can give a little at a time, this small gesture will add up and make a difference in a student’s life. This is why I give to NMC. Because it makes a difference.”
How did you get to NMC from Belarus?
My family moved to Florida from Belarus when I was 20. I wanted to go somewhere different for college and was drawn to Michigan given the abundance of water. NMC became the perfect fit as it is positioned directly on Grand Traverse Bay.
What’s your NMC story?
My time at NMC was very positive. What a wonderful community of caring people! The abundance of outdoor opportunities to hike, enjoy the water, and enjoy the culture downtown were definitely complimentary pieces to academics at NMC. Faculty and staff cared deeply about my academic success and I was able to make long-lasting friendships. The faculty taught me to love learning and care about the local community.
Kevin Stotts enrolled at NMC in the early 1990’s and the decision was very easy. He attended three different high schools by the time he began his senior year in Traverse City and wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving again. He was also unsure of what he wanted to study in college but knew he had a passion for history and politics. The tuition at NMC was affordable and he felt that he could further explore his academic interests and hopefully save a little money before transferring to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Kevin noted that the faculty at NMC were outstanding, but two in particular stood out – Al Shumsky and Stephen Siciliano. “I wasn’t a great writer when I entered college and Professor Shumsky was a tough but compassionate critic who helped me immensely. Dr. Siciliano had this amazing way of teaching history through stories and he fueled my love of the subject that continues today.”
Longin Kloc (Class of 1999) was pursuing a dream to be a firefighter in Illinois when a friend he was dating, a native of South Boardman, Michigan, mentioned that NMC had an excellent program in visual communications.
He came to the quick realization that a disproportionate percentage of firefighters were volunteers and therefore decided to move to Traverse City to tap into his creative side enrolling in the vVisual communications program at NMC.
Longin shared that all his education funneled through NMC. If it wasn’t for NMC, he likely would not have completed a bachelors and MBA at the University Center given his desire to stay in Traverse City for personal and professional reasons. Longin is currently the General Manager of Operations and Director of Marketing for Salamander Technologies in Traverse City.
Salamander provides first responders and emergency managers with the tools they need to manage incidents by offering a superior auto ID system that accounts for all personnel, verifies responder identities, and enhances situational awareness at an incident, emergency, or field event.
All my education funneled through NMC.
Longin had a wonderful experience as a student at NMC. He looks forward to getting more involved with the College assisting students with internships and has had the rewarding opportunity to review Visual Communication’s capstone portfolios.