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UT grad shares experience of what it's line on the frontlines of a COVID-19

"I still feel like I have that passion and that's what's driving me through it."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Doctors and nurses continue to play a critical role in the pandemic fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. 

Hospitals are seeing staffing shortages as workers are catching the virus. The field is needing more help now more than ever.

We've been following the journey of a recent University of Tennessee nursing graduate.

In May, Laura Phelps graduated from UT, ready to begin her career as an ICU nurse. 

"I'm needed more than ever," she said in an interview with 10News in May. 

She left Rocky Top with a strong passion to help others, seeing just how critical of a role she was about to play in fighting the pandemic.

"It showed more than ever what the role of nursing is and the unique role we have to get to help people during hard times and be frontline workers," said Phelps in May. 

Now in December, her passion still burns bright -- and it's getting her through tough days on the job. 

"I'm taking in so much new information everyday. I come home and I'm just exhausted," she said. "I still feel like I have that passion and that's what's driving me through it."

She recently began working on her own in a Middle Tennessee COVID ICU.

"It's tiring enough to wear all the extra PPE but rewarding because, in those units, family can't be there, so it's been special to be there for those patients," said Phelps. "I was as prepared as I could be going in, you just can't fully be prepared."

Phelps said the support from her coworkers, family and community means everything during such a stressful time. 

"Everyone's taking it day by day. My coworkers are so supportive. It's kind of the mentality of all of us together taking it day by day."

She's grateful UT was able to help her feel as prepared as she could be. 

Seeing what it's like on the frontlines, her advice to those on the outside is to take it seriously. 

"Even still we have patients come in on ventilators, and their family members say they don't understand how it happened, they didn't think it was real. It's hard to see that over and over again."

She encourages those in nursing school or those looking to pursue nursing to keep going and persevere.