Masking together

Courtesy photo/OakBend Medical Center

OakBend personnel, from left, are Preeti Shah, Ryan Cutab, Roji Devakulam, Caleb Nyameino, Sonia Joseph, Shallene Oliver, and Alhaji Baba.

The face of nursing has changed since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in this country earlier this year. Since COVID-19, the job of nursing has a new face, especially when working on a designated COVID unit. Nursing was already a challenging job, and now it has become tough.

A week before COVID became a pandemic, Brandy Snyder accepted the position of fourth floor medical surgical manager. Then, her new floor became the COVID unit. Now Snyder manages the Medical Surgical/COVID Unit on the same floor where positive and suspected positive COVID-19 patients are accommodated. 

Before the pandemic, Snyder worked 12-hour shifts, and now “I’m here every day,” she said. 

Although her hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, she is not out the door on time. She must stay until all reports and protocol checks are completed. 

“I constantly need to uplift staff and stay positive because my staff counts on me to be there for them,” Snyder said. “I spend more time with my staff and patients than I do with my family. There’s a lot of new education that I must learn and teach daily. I also advocate for both my staff and patients and their families. Due to the new protocols and visitation policy, we get a lot more upset family members calling in because they can’t be with their loved ones right now. It’s hard.”

Joe Freudenberger, who is the CEO of OakBend Medical Center, on Monday, July 6 said the community bears much of the responsibility.

“Folks, you want to keep your job, you’re going to have to start doing your job,” Freudenberger said in a video to the public. “We’re going to have to mask up, protect ourselves, and stop the spread of this bug.” 

As previously reported, the bug spreads through large and small droplets. He said the minute droplets are especially lethal because “they linger in the air for hours.” It does not get any better if one speaks to a physician and is confirmed infected at OakBend’s Wharton campus and then requires hospitalization at the Richmond and Jackson Street campuses.

Nurse Snyder mentions that the hospital staff has highs and lows. She said they are scared. Some have small children and elderly parents. She said they try to stay positive and are thankful for their jobs, but as the pandemic has worsened, it is physically and emotionally exhausting.

Since it became the COVID unit, the staff is working with full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). According to OakBend, that includes gowns, shoe covers, N95 masks, goggles, hair covers, gloves. It’s exceedingly difficult to go from patient to patient. But, Snyder said most of the patients are positive and hopeful. There has been a lot of patient recovery.

Not only have the things at work changed, but home life has changed as well for Snyder.

“I get scared, but I feel like no one really has a choice anymore. You either come to work or you don’t get to pay your bills,” she said. “You must be careful and follow your protocols. When I get home, I remove all my clothes in the garage, spray my shoes with Lysol and leave them in the laundry room. Then I get in the shower. I have two children, my youngest is eight years old and my oldest is 14 years old. It is difficult.”

As July begins, Freudenberger said OakBend’s Jackson Street was forced to open another COVID wing on the fifth floor. Moreover, Jackson Street had to open a COVID wing inside the Emergency Room because there were too many patients being held there, although it has not been more than a few hours.

While being a nurse is anything but normal these days, Snyder has a word of advice for the community: “Just be careful, take precautions and try to stay positive.”

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