As most of us sit in the comfort of our homes during this pandemic, it’s easy to forget that there are health care practitioners who are, in some ways, going about their jobs as usual, but in many other ways, facing the most unusual circumstances imaginable. Like all of us, they have their high moments and their low moments. But if you ask them, they would say that this is simply what they are called to do. Here are some stories about how they are using creative ways to express their emotions and communicate their resolve and optimism as they care for patients battling Covid-19:
Dr. Jamie Thomas, an interventional radiologist who also serves as vice president of medical affairs, leads and interacts with medical staff at all St. Luke’s campuses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has been conveying a message of hope to her staff, patients and the community as a whole.
Dr. Thomas coordinated a video featuring some of the St. Luke’s employees who work daily to keep our community safe. She texted a few coworkers to gauge their interest in participating in a “modified-for-Covid,” “We Are the World” song and video and then assigned parts of the song to everyone interested. Kicked off by the smooth voice of Richard Boulay, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at St. Luke’s and an amateur opera singer, the video features St. Luke’s employees from all over the Network sharing thoughts of hope and encouragement.
Candie Ramos, patient care manager to over 100 nurses and staff at St. Luke’s University Hospital Bethlehem, devised a similar plan to use music and video to connect with the community. With fellow choreographers, nurses Stephanie Kunkle and Rebecca Boyer, Candie choreographed a dance to the song “Happy” and virtually taught the moves to different departments and individuals through the Network, even inviting some children of St. Luke’s employees to make cameos. In spite of sore feet and legs, sweating and shortness of breath caused by breathing through masks all day, the “dancers” spent each day teaching and practicing the dance and helping each department perform it.
Autumn Reif, a nurse at St. Luke's, recalls one of the first Covid-19 patients she cared for during those early weeks, an elderly patient with dementia. Her condition was deteriorating quickly so Autumn kept in touch with her family and stayed at the patient’s bedside until her last moments. Autumn even whispered “I love you” to her because she thought that’s what she would hear from the family that couldn’t be with her.
“My job has always been to care for patients, of course, but right now, my job is also to be family for patients whose family cannot be with them, to be a connection to the patient’s family at home, to provide updates, hold a tablet or phone for the patient so the family at home can know their loved one is okay or to say goodbye if that time comes.”
Autumn began journaling as a coping mechanism for the stress added by Covid-19, and she wrote a poem about how she felt about caring for three different patients with Covid-19. View her reading the poem by clicking here.
Autumn says there are plenty of stories of hope throughout the hospital too. Patients are getting better, going home and saying thank you as they wave goodbye.
“When patients thank me for spending time with them, I know I really did my job,” says Autumn.
Dr. Thomas, Candie and Autumn are all positive and optimistic that we will get through this difficult time if we stay smart and safe and together. These are just a few of stories of courage and compassion throughout the St. Luke’s University Health Network. View all of the videos that St. Luke’s has produced to support their team during the Coronavirus pandemic.