Ohio nurses describe front lines: ‘I don’t think the public truly understands what we go through’

Registered nurse Jamie Giere, COVID unit team leader at Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy, said she often tells her husband that she wishes she could wear a Go Pro for a few hours and show people the stress the staff experience daily.

“It’s exhausting. It’s emotional ... I don’t think the public truly understands what we go through every day. The heartbreak, the emotion and seeing the fear in patients’ faces,” Giere said.

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Front line nurses from around Ohio, including Giere, spoke Monday at Gov. Mike DeWine’s news conference and described the challenges they and patients face as the number of Ohioans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 soared to a record 5,060.

Now, 1 in 4 Ohio hospital inpatients are COVID-19 positive and 1 in 3 people in an Ohio ICU are COVID-19 positive.

These patients typically can’t have visitors unless it is an end-of-life situation.

Starting Tuesday, Kettering Health Network will no longer allow visitors for emergency department and outpatient procedure patients to slow the spread of coronavirus and to protect staff and patients. End-of-life situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Some exemptions exist. Patients with a physician office appointment and maternity patients can have one visitor. Patients who need assistance due to mobility, interpretation or health care decision-making may have one additional assistance person. Minor patients can have two visitors, limited to one parent or guardian at a time.

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For patients without visitors, nurses often stand in to offer that support or hold up an iPad while the patient has personal conversations with their family.

“I wish we could bring people here with us and have them walk through our unit but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to see what we have seen,” said Dara Pence, ICU nurse manager at Riverside Hospital in Columbus.

Ohio has a cumulative total of 421,063 cases of coronavirus, an increase of more than 6,600 from Sunday, according to data reported Monday by the Ohio Department of Health. Also, 30 deaths were recorded Monday, bringing the total to 6,429. Hospitalizations increased by 357, brining the cumlative total to 26,864.

The coronavirus has continued to particularly hit closely congregated settings such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as jails and prisons.

Two more Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction employees have died due to the coronavirus, including Officer Steven Cook who worked at Dayton Correctional Institution and died Wednesday.

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Carrie Watkins, assistant director of nursing at Genacross’ Wolf Creek campus in Holland, said a staff member returned from maternity leave just after the virus had struck the facility.

“One of my nurses came back from maternity leave, and her hall of 22 residents, out of 22 residents she had cared for years, almost half of them had passed away. The pain and emotion I saw in her face … was devastating,” Watkins.

She said the higher cases in the community are getting into the facility, despite staff efforts.

“People need to understand that their actions have unintended consequences. Even if you don’t have a loved one in a nursing home, you can start a chain reaction that comes right into my building,” Watkins said.

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Thanksgiving precautions

Ohioans who traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday should quarantine and take extra precautions, officials advised at the news conference.

“For those who traveled over Thanksgiving and are now back, please be as safe as possible. That might include taking additional time off to quarantine and minimize your level of contact with others to break any possible chain of transmission,” Thomas said. “God forbid you get sick, but at least you will be breaking that chain in transmitting it to others.”

Thomas recommended people stay home and quarantine for at least the next five to seven days.

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