Pandemic or not, Leigh Reynolds will be at the hospital doing what she loves – keeping others safe in her own hometown. She’s the acute care services clinical manager at Sovah Health–Martinsville, which has treated patients who have fallen ill from the coronavirus.
“We often think of medical care as a series of treatments and medications, but good care is about more than addressing physical conditions — it is about connecting with patients in ways that help them embrace their recovery,” she said. “The best nurses know that forming a strong relationship with their patients is an integral part of succeeding as a nurse, and how we interact with our patients influences their recovery.”
In January, most Americans hadn’t even heard of the novel coronavirus. In February, 2019-nCoV seemed like a bit of a nuisance in the United States, but not much of a threat. In March, COVID-19 struck hard, causing national shutdowns of schools, nonessential businesses and even elective medical procedures.
When the virus hit Virginia on March 7, hospitals prepared to handle a surge of infected patients. Now, the daily case count appears to be on the mend and local hospitals never stretched beyond capacity. The case count in the Martinsville and Henry County area isn’t as high as it is in other portions of the state. And the staff at Sovah Health–Martinsville say they are prepared to handle whatever may come.
Jackie Wilkerson, Chief Nursing Officer, confirmed that the hospital has treated patients who tested positive for COVID-19.
The hospital put extra precautions in place to lessen the spread of the virus and also treat it as effectively as possible.
“Treating infectious diseases is not new to our hospital and the guidelines for protecting patients, staff and visitors are comprehensive and evidence based. Out of an abundance of caution, we are taking several additional precautions,” Wilkerson said. “For example, increased sanitation and hand washing, implementing a no-visitor policy, all patients and staff are being screened appropriately and temperature checks are taken upon entry, all persons entering the facility must wear a mask throughout the entire building and a designated COVID-19 unit to treat positive patients as well as suspected positives.”
There are certain practices and precautions that are unique to treating COVID-19 patients.
“Some extra precautions would be increased personal protective equipment [PPE] usage, such as a respirator and face shield, along with increased sanitation and using a separate room to put on and take off necessary personal protective equipment,” said Ashley Williams, director of acute care services.
Taking an abundance of precaution to keep the infection rate as low as possible, the no-visitor policy can make a hospital stay rather lonely for patients. To boost patient morale, the role of nurses and others on the medical team had to become even more pronounced. In addition to completing their normal rounds, nurses at Sovah Health–Martinsville also serve as temporary family members to each hospital patient, especially those in isolation.
“The care needed for a COVID-19 patient is more intense and involves more detail,” Williams said, referring to how the disease attacks the respiratory system. “The other challenge is isolation. Not being able to allow visitors is a tremendous physical and emotional challenge for the caregivers because we see the toll it takes on our patients. We, as caregivers, are stepping up and taking care of these patients as if they were our own family.”
As essential workers, the hospital staff of doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, dietary staff and others are not staying at home during the pandemic.
Instead, they report to work so that they can care for others potentially infected with the virus.
“Being able to keep our community members in their hometown and care for them close by gives me every reason to come to work because that is what I would want for myself or my own family,” Reynolds said. “Our patients become our family, and to see them recover is truly life changing.”
When a patient does recover, whether it’s from COVID-19 or another ailment, there’s nothing like the feeling medical professionals get from knowing that they helped when a patient does recover.
“We cheer and pray for our patients just like we do our own family,” Reynolds said. “Seeing them recover and being able to go home healthy and happy is a feeling like no other. We do it for them, not for us.”