Back at the beginning of March when talks of the coronavirus were just starting to ramp up, Jennifer Bodar, a registered nurse working at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, just so happened to be out of the county.
While she was still closely following the news, she thankfully wasn’t traveling in any of the areas that were hit hard — so for Bodar, the gravity of the situation didn’t quite hit her until she returned home.
“The next day after I got off the plane, I said, ‘Oh, I need to go grocery shopping. Let me go to Costco,’” she said. “It was about 10:30 (a.m.) and there was a line out of the door and I couldn’t find parking. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Upon seeing the commotion, it began to register for her. “That was what made it real.”
Meanwhile here in the Santa Clarita Valley, her hospital had already begun planning for the oncoming health crisis.
“There were things already in the works at the hospital while I was away, and when I came back, things were really already in motion,” Bodar said.
As nursing director of the hospital’s five medical surgical/telemetry units, Bodar quickly stepped into high gear as she got back to work.
“We had to mobilize quickly to make changes to accommodate our patients as they’re coming in, because, obviously, it’s a little bit of a different workflow and a different care level,” she said.
The first step was identifying how to safely take care of patients, and processes became a complete collaboration across the hospital with all disciplines.
“It was really all hands on deck to figure out very quickly what’s best for our patients and really tailoring the care towards the needs that are going on right now in the community,” Bodar added.
While Bodar would normally make rounds on her units throughout the day, addressing any of the patient or staff concerns, that communication has now become even more vital in order to keep everyone both safe and informed, as the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations would often change on a daily basis.
“All hospitals, I’m sure we’re going through that,” she said. “So, it was really trying to keep up with that, and then pivoting, making those adjustments to what we may have already had in place.”
Many changes in policy were new for the hospital, such as limiting visitation, yet Bodar and her team took each one day by day.
“As we put processes in place for that, we did have some discoveries along the way,” she said. “For example, we had to accommodate for family members needing to bring in, like the charger for a patient’s cell phone, things that you’re not thinking of when you’re being admitted to the hospital.”
As with many hospitals, there was a big focus on personal protective equipment, or PPE, right away, as there is a shortage nationwide.
“We’re in a really good place right now because of all the work that was done over the past six weeks or so,” Bodar said. “I feel like here at Henry Mayo, we got ahead of mitigating any problems. We put processes into place before we had shortages of anything, and from my perspective and my experience, we did it very timely because we’ve had all of the equipment needed to take care of the patients and to keep the staff safe.”
In the COVID-19 units, staff had more changes to adjust to. “To make sure that we are keeping everything safe from an infection prevention standpoint, the nurses had to adopt a different workflow.”
Staff working in these areas take extra precautions, remaining in isolation through their entire shift and ensuring they don all the necessary PPE when interacting with patients.
“Now, nursing is accustomed to that for anytime we have to take care of any type of patient that is in isolation, but this is a little bit added (protection) for COVID,” Bodar said.
Staff are also given extra scrubs to wear as well as a place to shower, “so that they feel comfortable going home and that they’re not taking anything unwanted home to their families, because it’s a real fear I think in all hospitals for any caretakers working in those units,” Bodar added.
Through it all, Bodar said she was really impressed with how beautifully the staff responded to each change.
“I was so amazed at how they adapted to the quick changes,” she said. “Them having the ability to make that quick change, adapt and adopt was one of the beautiful things that I saw coming out across the hospital.”
Rolling with the punches, per se, has really allowed Bodar and her units the chance to fine tune their new normal.
“And there were fears, of course,” Bodar added. “The entire world has fears about this pandemic, but what I saw, (was that) our staff really put that in the background … They were so collaborative and really understanding.”
Similarly, Bodar was impressed with community members, who have also been considerate of the changes.
“People understand this is a pandemic,” she said, later adding, “There has been an absolute outpouring of support.”
More than a month has passed since Bodar left Costco knowing her world had changed. “It’s impacted our lives like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Yet, she’s hopeful of the strides that have been made in containing the spread of the virus.
“I’m just hoping that it doesn’t create a false sense of security,” she added. “If we see the line flattening as far as the number of positive cases in the United States, I’m hoping that our leaders will not loosen up on the stay-at-home (order) … because we know it’s working.”
Though Bodar knows it’s been difficult for everyone, she urges them to keep washing those hands, wearing masks and following the health guidelines, also reminding them not to fear the hospital.
“Our hospital is safe,” Bodar said. “If you’re not feeling well and you feel like you need to come in to be seen and need care, don’t be afraid. It’s the safest place you could be because we’re going to know how we can take care of you to keep you safe.”