Montana State University bachelor’s nursing student Connor Meron is combining his nursing education with his service as a member of the Montana Army National Guard to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meron, who is a student at the MSU College of Nursing’s Billings campus, volunteered this fall to spend two weeks working in the infirmary at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. His shifts there lasted 14 hours each – 12 hours of work plus an approximately hour-long drive each morning and evening. There were no days off; by the end of his two-week deployment from Oct. 25 through Nov. 9, he worked 210 hours.
“Being a part of this has been great,” Meron said. “I learned that I am capable of achieving a lot more than I thought being here and doing school simultaneously. It’s nice to know our work here has made a difference and that we have helped out others. Not everyone had a choice in going on this mission, but I wanted to come to be a part of something bigger and make a difference.”
Meron began each day at 4 a.m. and worked until 7 p.m. During each shift, he helped nurses test inmates for COVID-19, and he also monitored the systems of inmates who had tested positive for COVID-19 to track the progress of the disease.
“There are close to 1,600 inmates, so it keeps us busy,” he said. “The inmates with COVID that are really sick and staying inside the infirmary I help with basic care, such as taking vital signs, blood sugars, passing out meals and cleaning.”
When he got back each night to the hotel in Butte where the group was staying, Meron worked on homework until about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., he said, noting that his professors were “awesome” and accommodating of his unusual schedule. Then, he tried to get as much sleep as possible.
The days were long and tiring, but Meron said was motivated – both as a future nurse and as a member of the National Guard – by a desire to help others.