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Heroes at Work: Finding Purpose

April 16, 2020
Published in: COVID-19, Heroes at Work

Lara Young checking a team member's gloves

Sometimes your profession can change when you least expect it. You find that your normal daily routine changes due to circumstances out of your control, but you are the kind of person that picks up and takes control where you are needed. You are a dedicated health care worker and will do anything to help your colleagues and most importantly, the patients. In the past few weeks, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several employees at Augusta Health have been re-deployed to new roles. The new roles have been assigned based on skill sets, but those skill sets are now used in new and different ways. They have, however, found purpose in their new roles: They are all here for the good of our patients, the community and each other.

Lara Young putting on gloves
Lara Young

Lara Young has been a physical therapist in the Augusta Health Outpatient Center for 17 years. Her primary role is therapy treatment to patients with orthopedic injuries and conditions. Since the governor issued the Stay-at-Home Order, patient appointments in the outpatient therapy clinic decreased. Like many other therapists, Young was redeployed into a new role.

Since April 2, 2020, Young has been serving as one of Augusta Health's Safety Resource Officers. The Safety Resource Team was created because Incident Command and the Infection Prevention Department saw the need to provide face to face support to clinical staff on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and surface cleaning, and to be a point of contact to disperse current information. The Safety Resource Team meets these needs.

Young is serving on this Team and gives support and encouragement to those clinicians providing care to patients with respiratory infections including COVID-19. She and the other Safety Resource Officers support the clinical staff in real time, answering questions and offering guidance to keep everyone safe.

Just recently, Young worked with a physician who told her that she was extremely appreciative that there is staff on-site to offer this encouragement and guidance.

Liz McWhirt with a cart of gloves
Liz McWhirt, RN

Liz McWhirt, RN and Manager of the Augusta Health Urgent Care Services, also experienced a change in routine and re-deployment. McWhirt has been with Augusta Health for seven years, and she manages the four Urgent Care facilities and the Crozet Convenient Care.

As the Manager, her typical day includes rounding on several clinics, updating the staff on any new organizational changes, listening to any concerns they might have, and ensuring all clinics are staffed properly and have all necessary supplies.

Then, as COVID-19 spread, Augusta Health needed one of the Urgent Care facilities to become a COVID-19 Assessment Center. The Waynesboro Urgent Care was selected as the best facility to meet this need. On March 19, 2020, the Waynesboro Urgent Care became the COVID-19 Assessment Center and now sees only respiratory illnesses, fever and potential COVID exposures. Patients are typically tested for flu and then COVID-19. This facility conversion was made to consolidate COVID-19 testing and possible exposure to COVID-positive patients at one facility—providing consistency in testing procedure and safety to patients and staff by minimizing their exposure.

Not only did the facility change, but McWhirt's daily routine changed as well. Her priority and daily routine now is to keep her staff safe, making sure that they have the proper PPE equipment and are using it appropriately. She is also responsible for the daily records of all patients that are tested, and informing staff and completing intake forms when they have been caring for a patient who has tested positive. She is constantly monitoring, educating and re-deploying staff in areas that are needed to put the safety and well being of patients and staff.

Are there challenges? McWhirt says, "Yes, my team is used to caring for acute injury and illnesses and
now they only see respiratory patients. They've also had to adapt to using PPE."

But she is proud that her team came together with a common purpose, that they are all safe, and most importantly, that they are providing the best care to their patients.