Protecting the Public - Shane Gurnee ’12

June 30, 2020

In acknowledgment of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Collegium is highlighting alumni who, in their own unique ways, embody what it means to be a “Fisher Nurse.” In this installment, meet Shane Gurnee ’12

Shane Gurnee

As a nurse coordinator for the Monroe County Department of Public Health, Shane Gurnee ’12 works one-on-one with patients dealing with communicable diseases, ensuring they are doing what is best for their health and the health of those around them. At the same time, Gurnee is part of a team of public health professionals looking at the bigger picture of community health, figuring out how best practices can be adopted by the Rochester community and identifying potential problems before they occur.

“Public health gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with a patient and become that person’s problem solver,” he said. “Our programs are unique in that we are providing a good protection and/or cure for something and making sure our patients and their loved ones are protected from the communicable disease.” Gurnee’s work with the department began during his rotation as a student nurse. His work on a tuberculosis investigation helped him earn a position there after graduation.

During his tenure, Gurnee has coordinated programs for expectant and new mothers diagnosed with Hepatitis B, to help keep their newborns and infants protected from the viral infection, and supervised the immunization program. He later gained supervision of outreach efforts for both tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. In this capacity he serves as a consultant on efforts to raise awareness of infectious disease, organizes screenings and educational events, and works with primary care offices to improve vaccination rates among their patients.

“Nurses on the outreach team work with patients with tuberculosis for three to nine months, sometimes even a year, seeing them daily at their homes to provide therapies and ensure they are getting adequate treatment,” he said.

In honor of their hard work and accomplishments, Gurnee’s “amazing nurse-driven team” was named the CDC U.S. Tuberculosis Elimination Champions for 2019.

When COVID-19 cases appeared in the Rochester area, Gurnee was appointed to lead the isolation unit for Monroe County. The unit issues orders of isolation, monitors patients in isolation and quarantine, and engages in contact tracing when patients test positive. His team also conducts targeted testing for patients that meet the criteria but are unable to be tested within their community.

“We monitor patients daily and make sure they are safe at home during isolation,” he said. “We try to stay connected to solve any problems they might have.”

Gurnee said much of his job is staying abreast of the newest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and New York State Department of Health, as well as the latest health and medical studies, and communicating that information to the community. Working in the era of COVID-19 has underscored the importance of adapting to rapidly changing situations, he said.

“We were hit really quickly with a totally new scenario, and I think this experience will make our profession continue to learn and adapt as things change,” he said. “And amid that, we have to always keep our eyes and mind on the patient to see what they really need.”