During this unprecedented time, with the community taking unusual steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many are going above and beyond to help their friends and neighbors. In a series called "Heroes Unmasked," The Pioneer will be featuring local people, nominated by their peers, who are making a difference in their community.

BIG RAPIDS — Growing up in the small city of Hart, registered nurse Rachel Prudhomme has been interested in the healthcare field since high school.

It's been an interest that has only deepened since she joined the Community Mental Health (CMH) staff.

“My junior year of high school I participated in the Allied Health class at our Career Tech Center, and at that point I decided to go into nursing,” she said.

Prudhomme, a Ferris State University graduate, has been a nurse for almost six years.

“I was initially drawn to nursing because I thought I would like the fast pace and intensity of the emergency department or something similar,” Prudhomme said. “In nursing school, I found myself more interested in the caring and compassionate aspect of nursing.”

Now as a nurse at CMH, Prudhomme works as part of a health services team which provides psychiatric care to individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Some of her responsibilities include assessment, education, medication administration, as well as coordinating between various departments and companies.

“I love that there are so many different areas and aspects of nursing, so that even though my interests changed, they still aligned with a career in nursing,” Prudhomme said.

Though her interests change throughout her career, Prudhomme said her favorite part is always the same.

“I love to be able to walk alongside my patients during some of their most challenging times and help them on their path to recovery,” she said. “It is very rewarding to me to be able to build relationships with my patients and see the progress they make overtime.

“I also love working with a multidisciplinary team and bringing all of our different strengths together to help our patients in the best way possible and provide comprehensive care.”

With a goal to provide excellent care to her patients, Prudhomme continues to work during recent coronavirus concerns, noting now is especially important to be available to patients.

“I am glad that I am still able to help provide mental health services during this time, especially since there has been a huge increase in the amount of stress and anxiety people are experiencing,” she said.

Utilizing telehealth as much as possible, Prudhomme said the majority of CMH staff and patients remain at home while still getting the mental health services they need.

“When patients do have to come into the clinic for face-to-face services, we have policies and procedures put into place to make the interaction as safe as possible,” she added. “Everyone that enters the building is screened for COVID-19 and temperatures are checked. Face masks are required as well as additional PPE, when indicated.”

Though Prudhomme agrees these are challenging times for everyone, she encourages others to continue to follow the recommendations given to them to help flatten the curve, but to also reach out, if they are experiencing any issues she, and healthcare workers like her, can help with.

“I would just like to encourage anyone who is struggling with mental health issues to reach out to their healthcare provider for the help that they need,” she said. “While offices may be closed or appointments may look a little different than normal, we are still here to help.”