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Alverno College and Ascension Wisconsin: working for a healthier Wisconsin

Rows upon rows of forest green cots — 530 to be precise — sit empty at the Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park outside Milwaukee. God willing, they’ll stay that way.

That’s because the beds were set up at the new Alternate Care Facility, or ACF, to host low-acuity COVID-19 patients in the event that area hospitals became overstretched. A team of doctors, nurses and other professionals are ready to spring into action should the need arise.

One of the nurses is Alverno’s Annette Ries ’19, DNP, MSN Ed, RN, CHSE, assistant professor of nursing in the JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions. As the ACF’s co-nursing director, Ries is part of the leadership team that is creating patient care protocols, designing aspects of the facility and overseeing healthcare staff.

“We are Wisconsin’s best insurance policy,” Ries says. “We’re working very closely with the community and the military to share our expertise and knowledge about the virus, about protection and about testing.”

Ries was appointed the ACF nursing director on April 15. She hadn’t sought the role; instead, she had planned to volunteer her services as a nurse. Her nursing background and education made her stand out, however, and she was asked to serve as nursing director.

Ries, who has been on Alverno’s faculty for 11 years, is proud to leverage the power of Alverno’s unique ability-based curriculum in her work at the ACF.

“I’ve used every single one of the 8 Abilities in this new role daily,” she says. “I cannot say enough about the Alverno education. I totally believe in the philosophy of teaching, and that’s why I teach here.”

Ries has already incorporated what she has learned from the pandemic and her ACF role into undergraduate classes — she taught four courses this spring — and includes the information in the master’s-level courses she taught this summer.

“My teaching is considering the future of nursing. Who’s going to be working in these field hospitals? Nurses whom we’ve taught,” she says. “Before, we taught emergency preparedness, but nothing in this magnitude. No one did. The textbooks didn’t cover this. Now, I’m bringing my students pandemicrelated case studies and simulations. We’re engaging students in these conversations to expand their knowledge.”