Community support helps bolster LMH Health staff during COVID-19 crisis
Jessica Brewer, LMH Health
If you've ever been to the emergency department, you may have witnessed the fast-paced, high-intensity work the medical staff faces daily. With COVID-19 on the rise, this work is not only intensified, but there are added learning curves. Joy Colwell, a nurse in the emergency department, said when returning to the hospital after a couple of days away last month, she walked in to see protective gear lining the hallways and found more than a few new changes to navigate.
"We received new policy changes almost daily at that point," she said. "It could be overwhelming at times, but the way the emergency department staff adapted to these new practices and trained each other so quickly was incredible to see. We banded together and took these changes as they came. Now, it is our new normal."
Colwell says spirits remained high as they anticipated a potential surge.
"We had lot of anticipation for what was to come," Colwell said. "We looked at places that hit their peak before us to see how we could prepare, and then we do what we've been trained to do. At first, it felt as if there was a looming dark cloud that was coming but was not here yet, which put people on edge."
She said that despite the unknown, the community, the staff and the people of Lawrence gave them constant morale boosts in the first few weeks of the pandemic.
"The community has been unbelievable," Colwell said. "They have kept our morale high, they have shown their support through and through and they are helping us fight this fight. I may come in with fearful thoughts, but then I see the notes community members leave for us, the food, treats, coffee and so much more - it puts a smile on my face. It's all these things that to one person may seem seemingly small, but to us it is huge. I walk in and see cookies, and I wonder who took the time to provide this thoughtful gesture."
However, Colwell says one of the most helpful things community members can do is to keep themselves and their family members safe as best they can. Douglas County’s significant and successful efforts to flatten the curve has meant that our local rate of infection has remained low.
“Please, stay home as much as possible and distance when you can,” Colwell said. “This way we can continue to flatten the curve and give every resource and effort we have to save our patients."
Colwell says the positive attitudes, encouragement and sense of community have made this situation bearable.
"It's hard to put into words," she said. "The teamwork hospital-wide and the love that has been shown makes a big difference.”
Dr. Toni Reynolds, an emergency medicine physician at LMH Health, says that she agrees with Colwell. The love received from the community is wonderful and the staff at LMH Health are ready to serve their community.
“I was commenting the other day to a friend about how a staff member’s family provided food for us and how kind it was,” Dr. Reynolds said. “The community has been great. We are well prepared to serve them if and when a surge hits. We have had plans in place for weeks to ensure this.”
Dr. Reynolds said the frontline staff has been going over workflow and new processes for weeks. There are plans and back-up plans for almost every situation.
“The teams have tried to prepare for every scenario,” she said. “We want to make sure we are ready for when the community needs us most.”
Though LMH Health is focusing heavily on the pandemic, Dr. Reynolds wanted to make sure the community knows the emergency department is still open for emergencies that are not related to COVID-19.
“If you are in an emergent situation, please still come to the ED,” she said. “We have taken steps to ensure your safety from COVID-19. Do not ignore your symptoms, and know that we are still here for you if you need us.”
Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health,