Director of Nursing sleeps in care facility to support her residents

WYOCENA, Wis. (WMTV) -- For Janelle Zacho, serving as Director of Nursing at Columbia Health Care Center is more than just a job.

“Becoming a nurse was for me, a calling, and I feel very committed to that,” Zacho said. “When I became a nurse, I really felt privileged to be a nurse, and I still do - that people entrust their loved ones to us. As Director of Nursing it really is my role to ultimately make sure that they are well cared for every day, every minute.”

Zacho is taking that commitment to 24/7 care seriously, deciding to sleep and live in the Wyocena facility during the pandemic, to ensure that she’s around if anyone needs her.

“I felt the only way I could ensure that I could be here and not catch COVID and not bring it into the building was by staying here,” she said.

Zacho said that she moved into the facility – and into a basement room the staff jokingly calls her “suite” - on March 18th, and has slept there ever since.

“With all that I knew would change, I knew the residents and staff would need my support,” she said. “I didn’t know what would come on any given day, COVID can come at any moment. I wanted to be here to make sure we managed it really well so that we wouldn’t have other people sick if it did happen.”

Zacho said she’s seen her family a few times at a distance outside when they dropped things off for her. But, with many residents unable to see their families due to restrictions put in place for safety at the center, she decided she wouldn’t be going home to her family for the time being.

“I felt that if they couldn’t see their families, I would live without seeing mine, for a period of time anyway, as well,” she said.

Mandi Herwig, Life Enrichment Director at Columbia Health Care Center, said Zacho’s choice shows her dedication and commitment to what she does.

“She wanted to be here on the front lines,” Herwig said. “Our recommendations, guidelines, and our day to day operations were consistently changing and Janelle is just very serious - she wanted to be here, she wanted to be informed, and she wanted to be prepared for our residents and staff to keep us up to date at a moment’s notice of change.”

“It’s a sacrifice on their behalf, because they’re worth it,” said Zacho.

Zacho has worked at Columbia Health Care Center for a total of 18 years, and said her residents, especially those longstanding residents, are like her family.

“Probably because I’m an old duck in this pond, it’s very personal to me that my residents are protected.”