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Nurses play vital role in pandemic response

Lakeland District’s occupational health nurses — from left, Lisa Gundry, Sara Wendt and Brenda Lopez — stand outside the Milwaukee Main Post Office.

Sara Wendt knows that Postal Service employees rely on her to help keep them safe.

Wendt, an occupational health nurse in Great Lakes Area’s Lakeland District, is part of a team that provides employees with guidance on a variety of medical matters — including the coronavirus pandemic that has rocked the nation.

“We are the voice for the employees. We are the biggest advocate for their health,” she said.

The USPS workforce includes more than 100 occupational health nurses, whose duties include assisting employees with reasonable-accommodation requests, conducting employment screenings and fitness-for-duty exams, and organizing workplace health fairs.

The nurses also provide employees with health information, a job that has taken on added significance during the pandemic.

“We realize the severity of the disease,” said Phyllis Cicchetti, a Northeast Area occupational health nurse administrator.

Although USPS has employed occupational health nurses for years, the pandemic has put them front and center in a way other public health crises have not.

“Many now notice that there are nurses and appreciate that we can help even beyond COVID-19,” Cicchetti said.

Brenda Lopez, another Lakeland District occupational health nurse, said the fast-changing nature of the coronavirus emergency requires her and her colleagues to stay on top of the latest recommendations from medical experts and pass that information along to USPS management.

“We’re proactive,” Lopez said. “We communicate workplace safety to the employees and supervisors.”

Like other nurses, Wendt said she takes pride in supporting postal workers at a time when the nation is counting on them.

Employees “appreciate that we can help them,” she said.

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