COVID-19’s impact on the workforce is undeniable.
Businesses across the world have shut down until further notice. Some employees can work from home, while others, furloughed, wonder when they’ll clock-in next.
But nurses, and other health care workers, are needed more than ever.
“We need you in a way we haven’t ever needed you before. We’re in uncharted waters,” said Diana Berkland, Sanford Health‘s vice president of nursing and clinical services, to the nearly 10,000 workers she oversees.
Despite the fluidity, uncertainty and downright fear associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses across the Sanford Health enterprise have stepped up when it’s needed most.
Molly DeSpiegler is one of those people.
DeSpiegler is a registered nurse in the unit that cares for patients under investigation for the novel coronavirus in Fargo, North Dakota.
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She volunteered to oversee these patients.
“To the public and to our staff, this whole situation can seem overwhelming and scary. It’s unknown. This is a different type of COVID that we don’t know a ton about yet. But these are still patients. They’re still a loved one to someone else. They need to be cared for,” DeSpiegler said.
“If I was the sister or mother, I would hope that there would be a nurse that wants to be there, providing exceptional and safe care. That’s what Sanford is about.”
The Watertown, South Dakota, native calls working on the front lines a “learning experience,” but with enough staffing, and great communication among the staff, she says they’re in a good place.
“We’ve had to have a good buddy system. My co-workers are huge. We alert each other of our needs. You have to trust the people you work with, so you can get things done in a timely manner for that patient. You work very closely with your doctors in those situations, and we’ve had a great one in Dr. (Hasrat) Khan,” said the NDSU graduate.
“We have a system in place and have educated doctors that are willing to work with us as a team. We are all learning, but very quickly and safely, on how to work with what’s going on right now. The support we’ve gotten from other staff members to help out has been huge and phenomenal,” DeSpiegler added.
Nationally, having adequate resources and staffing has been an issue for some health care systems.
Berkland says because of conservation strategies, or using only what’s needed, she and other nurses across the enterprise aren’t concerned.
“We have a predictive modeling, where we look at how many supplies will we need per patient. We will have what we need when we need it. It will take many hands to make this come together, but we’re in a really good place,” said the 32-year Sanford Health employee.
If Sanford were to need more help, Berkland said it’s prepared.
“We put art and science into this work to look at if we have the right staff in the right location. We’ve really worked closely with the data analytics team to make sure we’re paying attention to workforce needs,” Berkland said.
“We have adequate staff right now. The needs are always fluctuating. But, it’s a really good system we have in place.” said Molly DeSpiegler.
Social distancing and good hand hygiene are two of the biggest ways to fight the spread of the virus.
However, for nurses, maintaining social distancing guidelines while caring for COVID-19 patients presents challenges.
“Always washing our hands, not touching our faces, always have gloves on. It’s a very strict protective environment. No family members are allowed because it’s an airborne virus,” said DeSpiegler.
“It can be a challenge, working in close proximity. It takes a different level of mindfulness,” Berkland said. “We have to have a heightened attention to detail. There are social habits that we have to be attentive to. It creates challenges because nurses are naturally huggers.”
A plea from nurses
Molly DeSpiegler and other nurses are pleading for everyone to practice socially distancing and strictly follow what the CDC is recommending.
“Don’t go out in public. Wash your hands,” she said. “Don’t visit someone who’s elderly or have compromised immune systems. They’re at an increased risk of getting this.”
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