Several Augusta Health employees are working in other important roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the volume in their home departments has decreased, they realized their skills are needed in other units of the hospital to prepare for a potential surge in patients or help with services that have been developed to support families and patients during the pandemic. They have redeployed to those areas to make a difference for patients and families.
Jackson Maust, a physical therapist is the Inpatient Rehab, Skilled Nursing Floor and Adult Neuro Outpatient Therapy departments, has EMT certification. He is currently serving as an EMT/Tech in the Emergency Department.
Maust has worked at Augusta Health for seven years—his first and only job after Physical Therapy school. In a typical day as a Physical Therapist, he sees approximately eight to 10 patients, in a mix of Inpatient Rehab, Skilled Nursing, Outpatient Neuro and Wheelchair Clinic settings. These patients can be medical, orthopedic or neurologic patients, and vary quite a bit depending on the current patient population.
Currently, he has taken on a new role in the Emergency Department as an EMT/Tech. He works four ten- hour days each week. The Techs in the Emergency Department do a little bit of everything: IV starts and phlebotomy, checking vital signs, performing EKGs, assisting with procedures in the department such as wound care, casting, and splinting, and transporting patients to procedures, tests and to the medical floors.
"I'm amazed at how much the techs know and do on a daily basis," says Maust. "I'm not at the point of doing everything the experienced techs do, but I'm trying to learn and do as much as possible to make myself as productive and helpful as possible while I'm here. My PT background gives me a leg up in some of these areas."
"The skill set and competence of the techs in the ED is really remarkable, so learning the skills and procedures can be challenging. The pace of patient flow is also much faster than anywhere else in the healthcare system, so it's a good challenge to keep up with the needs of each patient as their stay progresses," he adds.
At this point, Maust starts and ends his work day in the Physical Therapy department, mostly out of habit and comfort. "It's nice to be at my familiar desk and department to start and end my day, even if I just put my bag and lunch down and head to the ED," he says. "It gives me a chance to bump into the coworkers from the therapy department that I'm rarely seeing these days."
He's also enjoying his stint in the Emergency Department, and appreciating the opportunity to work with that staff, too. "I enjoy the chance to work in an environment that is really team-based and collaborative, where the staff is really in tune with each other and is quick to pitch in and help at a moment's notice. My home department works incredibly well together, but patient care in therapy is more often done on an individual basis with less collaboration. In the ED, where time and efficiency are often critical, it's critical to have a flexible and skilled team that communicates well and trusts each other at all levels," Maust says.
He adds that there have been several occasions that he's had the opportunity to combine the EMT/Tech with his PT skills. He's been able to help with patient intake, assessments and testing as a tech, then help with positioning and mobility of the patients during the course of their visits.
Maust says, "I've been incredibly thankful for the patience and graciousness of the techs and nurses that are teaching me, and the providers that are working alongside me as well. So, when I have had opportunities to help out and be a resource that the ED doesn't typically have on a regular basis, it has felt good to feel like I'm adding value for patients and taking some of the workload off the staff."
Shelley Payne, CTRS, is the Recreation Therapy Supervisor and has been with Augusta Health for more than 21 years. As a Recreation Therapist, her typical day includes providing one on one treatments and group therapy for patients on the mental health units, inpatient acute rehab unit and the skilled nursing unit at Augusta Health. She is also an active member of the Stroke Team and coordinates the monthly meetings for the Shenandoah Valley Stroke Support Group and the Animal Assisted therapy program.
Today, during the COVID-19 response, Payne serves in a new role. She is one of Augusta Health's Liaisons, keeping the lines of communication open between patients, their families and staff. She works primarily in the Emergency Department where she greets patients and screens their support person as they arrive. Because support persons are not allowed in the Respiratory unit in the ED, Payne also obtains consent and permission from those patients to share basic information about their care with their families.
Some families wait in their cars, and Payne connects with them in the parking lot. She and the other liaisons offer the families drinks and snacks, generously donated by the community, as well as resources to help pass the time while they wait. If the family decides to go home to wait, Payne gives them the phone number for the Liaison Station so they can connect; the liaisons also will call families with basic information updates. Detailed medical information can only be provided by the patient's doctor or nurse, but the liaisons can help facilitate the connection.
In addition to the ED, Payne spends part of her time on the Inpatient Unit, providing similar support to those patients and families. She says, "This is a difficult time for everyone, and to be hospitalized and unable to see those who love you the most is difficult for all. I'm able to help families connect, and to provide some one-on-one time for those patients who need a little extra support and for family members who may now find themselves alone since their spouse or family member is hospitalized."
"I think the most challenging part of this role is that I sometimes need to hide my emotions a bit. I know that we have the visitation policy in place to protect our patients, and I honestly feel that most families understand that," says Payne. "There are difficult situations, though, that are very emotional. They might be crying and hurting, and I want to console them, but there are limits because of social distancing. I hope they know that I'm offering them a smile, even though it's behind my mask and face shield."
"I enjoy meeting members of our community," adds Payne. "When they come to the hospital, it's not just because they need something to do. They are here because they need us during a critical and stressful time. I see them as they enter the ED and as they exit. I make it my goal to try to remember everyone's name so that as they are leaving, I can address them by name, ask if they are feeling better and just let them know that they are important. Even during this time of crisis, whatever their injury or ailment was that brought them in for our help, is just as important as dealing with COVID-19."
She sums up her experience as a Liaison by saying, "Several weeks ago I talked with an adult daughter who was leaving the hospital as her mother was being admitted. I knew she was upset and I asked if there was anything I could do for her. She said she didn't know what my beliefs are, but if I pray, would I please pray for her momma. I assured her I would. Several days later, security gave me a list of names coming in for an End-of-Life visit. This visit was for the sweet momma I had been praying for. When the daughter arrived, she said, "Shelley, I am so glad you are here." We talked as I escorted the family to their mother's room. I assured her that I had been praying for her and her mother. It was just a beautiful moment to see them there with their mom. The love that came from that room was overpowering. I've had lots of happy moments, lots of smiles and even more laughs during my time in this role, but for some reason, that moment is one of the most special ones. You never know when, in that brief second, someone needs you to just ask them if they are o.k. and ask them what you can do for them."