The Best Part Of Their Worst Day
by T. T. Parish, Roseburg VA Health Care System
July 12, 2020
As the pandemic caused by the coronavirus swept the globe earlier this year, making its way to Oregon in late February 2020, health care professionals with the Roseburg VA Health Care System were well ahead of the curve. Advanced planning and coordination with local, county and state health officials helped form the basis of RVAHCS’s active response posture, paving the way to implementation of the formal Incident Command on March 6, 2020.
A series of steps and protective measures effectively placed a bubble around the health care system’s most vulnerable Veterans – residents of the Community Living Centers, which host a predominately elderly population – with much of the credit going to the health care workers closest to the COVID-19 front line: the RVAHCS nurses.
The RVAHCS nursing staff, who work across each of the facility’s service lines and clinics, have been vital to protecting Veterans from exposure to, and infection from, COVID-19. However, their efforts during the pandemic are only an indicator of the spirit of service here, and common across the nursing profession since the beginnings of medicine.
“Endless, wonderful, priceless words have been shared with me,” said Mary Curtiss, advanced practice registered nurse with the RVAHCS Urgent Care. “I have always found my Veterans to be gracious and thankful for the care they receive. I try to remember to be the best part of their worst day.”
June 12, 2020 - “Endless, wonderful, priceless words have been shared with me. I have always found my Veterans to be gracious and thankful for the care they receive.” So says Mary Curtiss, advanced practice registered nurse with the Roseburg VA Health Care System (RVAHCS ) in Roseburg, Oregon. During the RVAHCS Coronavirus response, Curtiss established and continues to maintain, along with the team, a secondary respiratory screening tent – she also has a long family history of military service. (RVAHCS photo by T. T. Parish)
Like any other team, the RVAHCS staff – including at the clinics in Eugene, Brookings and North Bend – rely on each other to continue providing the high-quality care their Veterans earned while in uniform. For many, like Curtiss, who helped establish a secondary respiratory screening tent for COVID-19 at the Roseburg campus, the teamwork is vital and the mission personal.
“All my family are Veterans. I didn’t serve so it’s my way of giving back,” said Curtiss, who has been with the VA for eight years. “One person can’t do it alone. The heroes are the [Environmental Management Service] staff preparing the room; the tech taking vitals and drawing blood; the nurse giving medications and being my eyes and ears; the radiology tech shooting the pictures; the pharmacist walking the medication down so we don’t send sick patients walking through the halls. It takes a village.”
It is fair to say that COVID-19 has upended and redefined many aspects of society across the world. Social distancing, face-coverings, self-quarantine, all have entered the common lexicon.
What has not changed is the resolve and commitment of nurses to the health and welfare of their patients.
In fact, COVID-19 has only served to sharpen their resolve, according to Oregon native Nancy Webb, licensed practical nurse with the RVAHCS’s Brooking’s VA Clinic.
June 24, 2020 - “I have always had a tremendous respect for anyone who has served in the military. As a nurse, one of my primary responsibilities is to advocate for the patient and their family.” So says Nancy Webb, a licensed practical nurse with the Roseburg VA Health Care System in Brookings, Oregon. The Gold Beach native has been with the Roseburg VA for nine years and has a personal connection to the services she and her team provide for Veterans – though she herself is a Veteran, her husband also served in uniform. (U.S. Veterans Affairs courtesy photo)
“I have always had a tremendous respect for anyone who has served in the military,” said Webb, herself a former Army wheeled vehicle mechanic originally from Gold Beach. “As a nurse, one of my primary responsibilities is to advocate for the patient and their family.”
Webb, who has been with the Roseburg VA for nine years, has a personal connection to the services she and her team provide for Veterans – though she herself is a Veteran, her husband also served in uniform. Her focus on providing high-quality care extends to all her patients and opens some doors for Veterans needing services outside an exam room, she said.
“Respect and dignity for the patient and their family goes a long way. I try to treat my patients like I would want my husband to be treated when he gets care at the VA,” said Webb. “I try to stay up to date with all the resources available to our Veterans so that I can make suggestions with the [Patient-Aligned Care Team] about referrals. A few months ago, I had a patient tell me ‘If you hadn’t asked the right questions about my housing situation, I wouldn’t have known that the VA has a program to help Veterans who are homeless.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting RVAHCS response across its five facilities covering much of Southern Oregon, nurses and staff have answered the call to support other, harder-hit facilities within the United States. Some 32 RVAHCS staff and providers have volunteered to support 42 separate COVID-19 response missions under the VA-wide Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS).
The 32 individual deployments represent the highest total within the Veterans Integrated Service Network 20, which covers much of the Northwest and Alaska, including RVAHCS. The DEMPS participation also represents the team-oriented spirit of all members of the Roseburg VA team, according to Webb.
“We all have to work together for a common goal. I can’t perform my job without my team; but my team isn’t limited to just the staff in Brookings, but it extends to everyone in the VA system and local communities.”
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