Piedmont Fayette Hospital had its first confirmed positive Covid-19 patient in March and the numbers rose steadily over the following weeks. Anna D’Andrea is a registered nurse in Piedmont Fayette’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and has seen her colleagues rise to different challenges every day during the outbreak.
“We’ve faced challenges, keeping up with rapidly changing guidelines for use of personal protection equipment from the CDC, and have been working to conserve resources because we just don’t know how long this will last,” D’Andrea said. “The team just takes it day by day. I didn’t think this team could be better, but this crisis has brought us even closer together. It’s the best team I’ve ever worked with.”
That team has expanded to include numerous departments that provide additional support, and members of the leadership team that search for answers and refine protocols that the hospital has never had to deal with before. D’Andrea sees the flexibility that the entire staff of the hospital demonstrates and likes that everyone pitches in to make it work.
That spirit is important when they are dealing with a novel virus like COVID-19. There are new patients diagnosed with the virus every day, and in the ICU, some patients don’t respond as well as others. In order to reduce the spread of infection, the hospital stopped allowing visitors. There are a few exceptions to this policy (partners of women in labor, end of life, etc.) but most patients need to rely on technology to connect with their loved ones. This is hard for the families, and it is hard for the staff who know how difficult that is for all involved.
“We know it’s the right thing to do, but we can also put ourselves in their shoes and recognize how hard that is on families,” D’Andrea said. “We do all we can to keep them informed and care for them.” Sometimes that is just staying in the room with the patient and holding their hands. Other times it is passing around a phone so that the patient can hear their family member’s voice.
D’Andrea and the staff of the ICU know they have to care for themselves as well so that they can provide the highest quality care for their patients at their next shift. Each member of the team has their own way to decompress. D’Andrea walks her dogs and exercises. The team also leans on each other outside of work because they are the only ones who truly know what it is like to be on the frontlines in a situation like this. In addition, Piedmont Fayette has provided numerous resources to help staff manage stress and anxiety, including free counseling, music and pet therapy, and a patio area reserved for staff to take a break for a few minutes and decompress.
“It is physically and mentally demanding. We are learning something new every day and constantly adapting treatments. It can feel like a rollercoaster,” D’Andrea said.
As someone who has seen many patients critically ill with COVID-19, D’Andrea urges the public to continue to take the threat seriously and stay home.
“We’ve seen how bad it can be. Even if you’re not infected, it’s about keeping everyone else safe,” D’Andrea said. “Please help protect our families while we are here protecting others.”
For more information about Piedmont Healthcare’s response to COVID-19 and how to protect yourself, please visit: piedmont.org/covid-19