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  • Writer's pictureOld Town Advocates, P.C.

COVID 19 My First Day as a Volunteer

Updated: May 10, 2023

I signed up for the medical reserve corps in my county in Virginia years ago. I went to training in a library and showed my RN license and CEN certificate and whatever else was requested. Then I went back to work as a flight/trauma nurse and then a nursing administrator. I went to law school and raised 3 sons and started a law firm. Then I sold the car where I kept the ID badge and the t shirt for the reserve corps in the glove box and transferred them to a new car. Then I sold the next car and had grandchildren.

And then COVID 19. The ID badge and the t shirt didn't seem to matter anymore. Someone told me I was re-activated and I showed up. We were told we would be clinical, but; "for now;" we would answer phones at a helpline.There was a room of eager helpers. We had pages of talking points, about 10 call takers at stations, and 2 registered nurses also at call stations. The leader told us that the day before there were 2 calls all day. The room was disappointed. We were there to help. We chatted among ourselves. When the call taker in front of me got the first call, we all stopped to listen carefully, trying to learn from each other and be helpful. The call was from a healthcare practitioner who repeated twice that she could not give her name. She had never been asked. She asked questions about her own safety and the safety of her practice and her family and the call taker responded as per the talking points. i told the call taker that the Virginia Board of Health has information on the sites of the different individual boards (nursing, medical, physical therapy, etc.) for practitioners to access. The caller hung up too quickly to receive that information.

The day spiked from there and I do not know how many calls were received, but I was busy every minute. As a local attorney, I was able to occasionally help connect resources with each other directly, but largely I gave nursing advice. I heard how urgent care centers were locking their doors and holding up signs through glass instructing patients to call the medical reserve corps, how doctors were telling their patients with significant medical problems and symptoms to stay home, and I told people abut the one and only place in our county currently doing the COVID testing on an outpatient basis and the process for calling first and the telephone screening and how to self-isolate at home along with the rest of their high-risk family. I talked to people home from a cruise where others were COVID positive that had driven home from Florida. I talked to parents of children whose classmates had tested positive. I talked the talking points and I did my best to emulate the public health nursing professor next to me who exuded compassion and empathy over the phone. I practiced social isolation and I wiped down my station at the end of my shift.

Exactly as in previous years in my nursing practice, today I am thinking of yesterday's patients. Are they okay? Did the chest pain turn out to be an MI or what? Are the children now symptomatic? Did that healthcare practitioner go to work? Is she afraid today? I have always prayed for my patients and i will not stop now, but I do not remember (? or is this just the distance of time?) being so unsettled about the day. Why wouldn't the lady with chest pain be seen by her own doctor? Why can't the couple from the cruise or the parents of the exposed children get immediate COVID testing so they can make isolation and treatment decisions with full knowledge instead of my; "you should act as if..." [Hopefully, they did call the resource I gave them and did get the testing, I really do not know.] Why are some healthcare practitioners more afraid of their respective Boards and employers than seeking guidance from them? Why am I learning from a listserve of TAANA (The American Association of Nurse Attorneys) that some Boards and some hospitals are pushing their own practitioners to go to work, even without proper PPE, and even using threat of disciplinary actions? How much of the information I gave out yesterday will eventually turn out to be truly scientifically accurate?

I will continue to be one of untold numbers of unpaid and paid healthcare professionals in American and Virginia who keep showing up. And my clients who practice counseling are continuing to counsel and adapt policies and practices to provide counseling via all sorts of new and improved technologies. My clients who are nurses are striping in their garages so they can wash and do laundry and praying that will be enough not to cross-contaminate their families. They are bringing home and washing things to use as their own PPE makeshift masks that would have shocked us last week and every practitioner would have agreed was too dangerous. Virginia courts are pushing fast forward on technology-assisted Hearings, and Virginia Guardians ad Litem (attorneys appointed for children) are checking on their kiddos via technology.

Yes, we are learning technology improvements and our brilliant medical and nursing research scientists and practitioners are going to blow our minds with advances.This will be my; "in those days.....;" story. What will your story be?


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