A really big thank you to health care workers

Lee Ann Ernst has been a nurse for 40 years, but she’s never seen anything like the Covid-19 pandemic.

She’s now the coordinator of St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s infectious disease response team. At the height of the pandemic, Ernst led nearly 500 employed health care workers who volunteered for the IDRT, including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, environmental services, lab, radiology, security and others, who had 12-hour shifts suiting up in personal protective equipment such as jumpsuits, masks, boots and gloves to spend three, four-hour rotations caring for COVID-19 patients.

“This has been the most significant and memorable example of teamwork, patient care, and hard work that I have experienced,” she says.

Her efforts and those of thousands of other health care workers were honored in a big way with the unveiling of a 59-foot-tall by 91-foot-wide mural at the Newport on the Levee complex.

Featuring a masked health care worker, the comic book-styled creation is visible on the western loading dock of the complex near the Taylor Southgate Bridge in Newport. The image can also be seen from various spots in downtown Cincinnati.

In March, St. Elizabeth Healthcare commissioned ArtWorks, the Cincinnati-based arts and education not-for-profit, and BLDG, a Covington-based design studio, to design the mural as a symbol of gratitude and support for the work being performed by health care workers.

The expertise of six local artists went into the creation of the mural -- one teaching artist, Evan Hildebrandt, and five youth apprentices: Alyssa Baker, Wesley Ericson, Hanna Smith, Angela Ramirez and Bri Wales.

"It has been a trying time in our world,” Ernst says. “We have all come together and have given our patients the very best care. It's what we believe in and is what we were called to do."

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.