Since the first case, Sara Taylor has been on the front line in the daily battle with the coronavirus.
“We are all in the same boat, but not the same storm,” she said. “Everyone has different worries from parents to child care to financial issues there’s still a heighten level of anxiety and concern.”
For the past five years Taylor, 37 has served as a Registered Nurse Case Manager. The Hadley Township resident and former Goodrich High School student left a large urban hospital for duties in the field as a home health nurse.
“Our goal (as a home health nurse) is to prevent hospitalization and educate patients,” said Taylor. “That’s why I left the hospital to go out in the field. I realized I could do more before people were seriously ill. Daily I work to help patients overcome roadblocks in taking care of themselves.”
Healthcare workers, like Taylor remain at the center of an ever changing fight with the coronavirus.
“Five months after the major outbreaks of the virus, people say the tide is turning,” she said. “The people that were on board in April are starting to let their guard down— they are forgetting and becoming complacent. Really nothing has changed from the beginning of the pandemic.”
Taylor has stayed safe but has now made several changes in her practice a routine.
“I wear a mask,” she said. “People have coughed in my face, so even after the virus is long gone I will still wear one. If it saves one person, then why not? It does not hurt and it’s the least evasive means of curbing the virus we can do.”
Taylor’s day is divided between non-medical facilities such as assisted living, adult foster care and private homes.
“Anywhere where a nurse is not on staff I go,” she said.
Typically, her patient’s needs range from wound care to pain management to illness recovery, along with a key component — learning techniques to care for themselves.
The daily work area is both diverse and challenging. The homes she visits often includes pets, smoke, and surfaces where a variety of people may have visited. Some of the area she travels each day is economically depressed which often adds to the challenge.
“It’s a regular Petri dish,” she explains. “It’s an uncontrolled environment, compared to the inside of a hospital.”
Once inside the home she does not sit down. She dons a mask, gloves, then wipes down her equipment a minimum of three times. Exits the home and removes the mask and gloves before returning to her car and on to the next case. The routine to stay safe, clean and coronavirus free, while taxing, is a matter of survival.
“It’s important the patient gets to see now I clean,” she said. “Nursing is art. It’s about touch and care, but now I have to step back to protect my patient better.”
The now routine methods, championed during the pandemic will change many aspects of medicine forever, she said.
“Today I spend less than one half hour inside the patient’s home,” she said. “Playing social worker sometimes takes me longer inside too—that comes with the job. Today I’m way more cognizant of what I wear and what I do with the clothes when I get home—my work scrubs, masks, gloves, keys, sunglasses, shoes, socks all are left in my garage in a special box. I shower immediately before any contact with family. I have a husband and three young children at home. Myself, like other front-line medical workers today, have to protect our families too. The coronavirus will come home with me if I’m not careful. I realize now the home ritual should have happened long before the virus hit.”
Due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws Taylor is limited in sharing experiences with patients. However, as the hospitals fill with coronavirus patients, those not in grave danger, are often discharged and quarantined to their private homes. Taylor keeps an eye on these coronavirus patients—visiting sometimes twice a day. Adding to the home environment challenges are other family members and those who may come in the home during the day. The truth is that viruses do not discriminate—they can affect anyone, no matter your race, national origin, ethnic background, age, or gender.
“When we see coronavirus and can keep a patient at home we are breaking the chain of infection,” she said. “We work to quarantine the family at home. If they go out of the house for any reason the virus can spread. We are the last line of defense. Keep in mind coronavirus is still a new strain and we are all learning more each day, we need to be extra careful.”
One of the biggest fights is to identify the symptoms of the coronavirus and education, she added.
“No one thinks they will be the one with the coronavirus,” she said. “Having been in the medical field for many years I’ve seen gun shot wounds and car accident victims—far more than the average person. And, I’ve seen patients with air hunger or a feeling of severe breathlessness. It’s terrifying and really not pretty. We just don’t know the long term impacts the virus will have. So make smart decisions now.”
Taylor expressed compassion toward the older population during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Seniors often don’t text or visit via Facetime,” she said. “They often have difficulty hearing, understanding, speaking and seeing. So when they are confined to a bedroom with few visitors for days and now weeks at a time.”
Taylor said, seniors often need to leave for doctor appointments during the week.
“The catch is when they return often a 14 day quarantine is required,” she said. “It’s a tough time.”