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Myrtue Medical Center Medical-Surgical Nurse Courtney Koch

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  • Written By: Bob Bjoin, Managing Editor
Myrtue Medical Center Medical-Surgical Nurse Courtney Koch

HARLAN – There’s little doubt it’s been an extremely difficult year dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has been deadly and sickened millions worldwide.

Yet even among these trying times, the difficulties have brought out the best in humankind.

There’s no greater reflection of that than in the local health care industry.

Myrtue Medical Center Medical-Surgical Nurse Courtney Koch doesn’t think of herself as a “superhero,” as many have called the nurses and doctors who have been treating COVID-19 pandemics. But she’s extremely proud of the local efforts of everyone in treating very sick patients, and is glad to be a part of it.

It has taken great strength from everyone to work through this health care crisis.

“The patients that are admitted to the hospital are pretty sick,” she said. “The best thing is seeing a patient turn the corner and feel better.

“Throughout the pandemic, nurses have demonstrated extraordinary courage in the care they deliver. They build trust and help a patient feel cared for. I’ve heard the words superheroes describing nurses.

“I think there were moments where I just wanted to provide the patient with comfort and compassion, but overall it was a collaborated effort with so many disciplines – physicians, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy and co-workers.”

Everyone has been part of the team, from housekeeping to those on the floor.

“Not just the nurses,” Koch said.

IWCC Graduate

Koch, the daughter of Tom and Lisa Conry, grew up in Westphalia, is a Harlan Community High School graduate, and trained at Iowa Western Community College where she obtained her registered nurse (RN) degree.

She’s always had a passion for helping others, and knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nurse.

“I was even named after a nurse,” she said. “When my dad was injured and needed medical care, they had a nurse who went above and beyond to provide excellent care,” Koch explained. “Since my mom was pregnant with me, my dad suggested they name me Courtney, the same name as the nurse who provided the extraordinary care to them.”

As Koch grew up, her grandpa had hip replacement, and she found herself helping and caring for him. Later, he developed lung cancer.

“At that time, I knew I had a calling for caring for people,” she said. “In high school I got a better feel for the nursing career by taking the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) class and learning more from Mrs. Osborn.

“This gave me a taste of the nursing field, and I knew I wanted to pursue it.”

Koch said she’s been holding up well during the past year. “Things have been hard, but I have been trying to keep a positive outlook,” she said.

It takes great strength to be a nurse, and Myrtue Medical has some of the best.

Karen Buman, Chief Nurse Executive, RN, MSN, at Myrtue Medical, said the nurses are critical thinkers and patient advocates, delivering high-quality care.

“I am so proud of the resiliency and their ability to adapt, sometimes not knowing what they will face,” Buman said.

Treating COVID-19 patients has required much of Koch’s time and energy. The repeated motion of putting on and taking off personal protective equipment was never a fast motion, but the gowns, gloves, and hand washing are a necessary part of the daily routine.

Taking care of COVID-19 patients has taught Koch to have patience and always be thinking ahead, anticipating any situation that may arise. The nurses are there to monitor and treat patients, and work alongside therapy, physical, occupational and respiratory to help better the patient.

They pass medications, assess, and collaborate to provide the best care.

“To see a COVID-19 patient recover is really awesome,” Koch said. “When you see someone struggling and they make such strides….the feeling is like Christmas morning, joy and celebration.

“They did it and you know that you were a part of that team that helped them feel better.”


Koch echos what other scientists and health care workers have been saying for months. Take precautions and good care of oneself. There are mild, moderate, and severe cases of the coronavirus out there, and no matter your age you can get it.

“Make sure you are eating a healthy diet and still staying active,” she said.

Nobody knows what the next six months will look like, and it’s important to keep a positive attitude, she said. “I am hoping we are moving in the right direction,” Koch said.

Vaccinations are important, and she advises Shelby County residents to talk to their family physician, do their own research, and make an informed decision.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccinations, and the vaccine is one of the greatest tools used to prevent the infectious disease and its serious complications, Koch said.

She said even though the pandemic has become a balancing act between caring for patients with normal medical conditions that require hospitalization and with COVID-19 patients, she said she’s embracing all of the circumstances as gracefully as possible and with a newfound gratitude for health and well being.

“I am very proud how MMC has responded to COVID-19,” she said. “Being a small town hospital, I think that MMC has stepped up to the place and provided the best care that we can.”