Area healthcare providers reflect on positive changes, both inside and outside hospital walls
By Bill Richardson
In a world that’s been turned upside down, some who are close to the action are confident that more good than bad will result from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Years from now, say caregivers, Americans in this part of the country won’t remember the spring of 2020 for the stress, illness and isolation as much as they will the coming together, the fortitude and the resurrection of the American spirit.
Collene Patten, a direct support professional for those with special needs who works for Developmental Services Incorporated and is based in Daviess County, says she’s never seen anything like it. Everyone, she says, appears willing to go above and beyond, especially those she works with.
“I think more than anything, I’ll remember how proud I’ve been of all of our workers,” she said.
“It’s brought out the best in a lot of them. What they’ve shown has been amazing.”
Gene Allen, manager of the Primary Care Clinic in Lawrenceville, Illinois, says long-lasting positive changes are likely to result because the virus has forced medical professionals to change their “mind set.”
Telehealth’s growing role
“I think we’re going to be healthier after all of this,” Allen said. “That’s the good that’s going to come from it. We’ve been talking about televisits, and how that was the wave of the future, but was a couple of years off. This has kind of expedited that, and our patients love it. So do our providers. It’ll never take over for seeing patients in the clinic, but in certain instances I think telehealth is here to stay.”
Dr. Valerie Burns, a family practitioner at the Primary Care Clinic, says it’s the best way to keep patients safe.
“We’ve been doing more visits by telephone and televideo,” she said. “This has meant changing processes and doing things in a more computer-centric way than before.”
Allen adds that the crisis has served to bring healthcare organizations closer together “as a community.”
“Now, we’re working together with other institutions that we wouldn’t have worked with before,” he said. “We’re talking with other organizations every day. We’ve come together on personal and professional levels. Through that, some processes have been developed, as far as patient safety goes. There are a couple of good things that have come out of this, for sure.”
Dealing with the pandemic on a personal level has been challenging for everyone, and not just those who see the coronavirus up close on a daily basis.
“For example, I love to shop,” said Samantha Potts, a registered nurse who is the health supervisor at Lawrence County Memorial Hospital and lives in St. Francisville.
“Obviously, right now I’m not doing a whole lot of that. Actually, it’s probably saved me money.”
Potts says a positive is that the situation has resulted in “an increase in family time.”
“Everybody shuts off the social media for a while, so you can sit and visit,” she said. “In that way, I think it’s been good for our family.”
Jessica Brink, director of materials management at Lawrence County Memorial Hospital, isn’t alone when she describes her typical day as work, come home, shower, sleep, then do it again.
“It’s hard not to see much of my family,” she said. “But it’s the smart and safe thing to do, right now.”
She, also, has seen “positive changes” result.
“We’ve really shown how a staff can come together quick, with a crisis like this,” she said. “They back each other, whether it’s to work in other departments or just to lend an ear, to listen and help lighten all the stress.”
Outpouring of public support
Wanting to do its part, the general public has been quick to pitch in. At hospitals throughout the country, volunteers have made homemade masks to help with a shortage of personal protective equipment. In Lawrence County, farmers have come through with donations of the coveted N95 surgical masks, which were in short supply.
“Everybody’s really stepped up,” said Potts. “Some of our local businesses have brought in food and drinks. There’s been an outreach in our community and everybody seems to be pulling together. That’s been heartwarming. That’s been very nice.”
It doesn’t stop there, Potts says. People everywhere are being genuinely kind.
“People will see you wearing scrubs and go out of their way,” she said. “They can’t wait to say ‘Thank you.’ It’s not just healthcare workers. There’s a shoutout everywhere. We appreciate all those in our community who are working hard. We’re all taking care of each other.”
Brink, who helped start a campaign for people to donate homemade masks, says a feel-good story has resulted.
“It’s a happy story, how the community has come together, and shown what it means to be a small rural community.” she said.
“There’s been an outreach in our community and everybody seems to be pulling together. That’s been heartwarming.”— Samantha Potts
She appreciates the food, and the motivational messages — placed on paper shaped like hearts — that have been placed on the hospital walls.
“Most of all,” she said. “We appreciate the prayers from the community, in support of the staff, and the entire community.”
According to Burns, the result might be a society that is safer and ready to act more responsibly.
“More people are regularly washing their hands,” she said. “They’re more aware of how infectious disease is spread, and people are having more awareness of good hygiene.”
As a bonus, she says, she’s already been able to make a few people smile.
“I have been able to give a few people good news, but can’t go into specifics,” she said.
Like everyone else, Patten is looking forward to the end, a return to whatever will next be normal. However, she also looks forward to remembering.
“Honestly, this has brought a lot of people together,” she said. “It’s a very hard and challenging time, but we’re making it through it. In the end, there will have been a lot of positive things come out of such a negative time.”