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SIC Nursing Responds to COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Ill. (April 21, 2020) – SIC students, faculty, staff, and retired faculty have been busy making masks for local health care facilities. The masks will provide some protection for health care workers, especially when combined with other precautions, such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.

“Our first skill set in the nursing program is handwashing and the use of PPE, or personal protective equipment. Rendering safe care from all health care providers hinges on these principles,” states Karen McConnell, retired SIC nursing instructor.

She explains that it was a natural progression for her to join the fight against the hidden enemy that is COVID-19. Health care providers such as Ferrell Hospital in Eldorado and local living facilities owned by WLC Management Firm, LLC, have already seen mask donations.

“We appreciated very much what they did for us,” shares Scott Stout, CEO of WLC Management Firm, LLC.

Around 100 masks have been donated to the living facilities. The masks will be dispersed to the residents so they may cover their face, mouth, and nose during visits from staff. Stout explains that the protection of residents and staff is key.

SIC’s own Kathy Volkening, secretary of Allied Health, is hard at work making masks for local health care facilities.

“I’m using donated material, other supplies I have on hand, and a sewing machine my husband bought me for Christmas,” Kathy Volkening, SIC Nursing Secretary, says. “I plan on making masks until I run out of material, so for probably another week or so.”

Of course, friendly competition is always welcome, no matter how socially distant the volunteers must remain.

“I may have to order some Chicago Cubs material to offset all of Brenda’s Cardinals masks,” teases Volkening, referring to Brenda Knight, HOC and CNA Coordinator at Southeastern. “I am going to make masks as long as there is a need. I am just glad to make them.”

Knight recently donated a backpack full of masks to Ferrell Hospital in Eldorado.

Brenda Knight (right), CNA Coordinator at SIC, donates masks to Rachael Prather, Chief Nursing Officer at Ferrell Hospital of Eldorado.

We are incredibly grateful for the partnership we have with SIC, and what it brings to the community is invaluable. Through the development of our relationship, it’s comforting to know that in a small community we can do amazing things together,” expresses Rachel Prather, Chief Nursing Officer at Ferrell.

The mask-making has not only been helpful, but educational.

“I didn’t really know how to sew until this last year. This has been good practice,” explains Volkening.

Karen McConnell, recently retired SIC nursing faculty, poses for a quick portrait while working hard on making masks for local health care facilities.


The experience has been an educational one at the McConnell household, as well; Karen mentions that it was a family endeavor from the beginning.

“My husband and son learned how to use the sewing machine, and my daughter used her sewing talents, as well,” McConnell explains the effort has been family-centric.

“We embraced this as a family in our home, in hopes to help our ‘family’ beyond the confines of our house,” McConnell expresses. “We are a community, not just locally, but globally.”

As of mid-April, 237 total cloth masks have been sewn together by the volunteers. Perhaps their biggest feat, 20 N95 masks have been constructed. These respirators meet health standards to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. Although they are the most common particulate-filtering facepiece respirators, N95 masks have been in severe shortage due to the high demand in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As I was working on the cloth masks, I would think back to all the students who came through our nursing program, and I would silently offer up a prayer for their protection, wisdom, discernment, and courage during this challenging time,” McConnell reflects.

A genuine concern for others is reflected in the countless hours of work from the volunteers.

“It is the hope of my family that the masks will not only provide protection, but will be a reminder that so many people are eternally grateful for their servant’s heart,” said McConnell.



Written by Tyler Bourland, SIC Communications & Relations Specialist



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