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COVID-19 and the Rural Health Clinic

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  • Written By: Bob Bjoin, Managing Editor
COVID-19 and the Rural Health Clinic

HARLAN – Amanda Erwin says she’s so proud of Myrtue Medical Center and Shelby County Public Health’s local response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has created a sort of chaos across much of the globe for more than a year.

As a busy registered nurse working in Myrtue’s rural health clinic she admits that she hasn’t really taken much time to sit back and evaluate, but when she did recently it’s nothing short of a sense or pride she feels in looking back on local efforts.

“Shout out to public health/Lori Hoch for keeping everything organized with vaccine distribution, newspaper articles and informing MMC beforehand,” Erwin said. “We use the teaching every day with our COVID patients.”

Erwin is an Iowa Western Community College graduate who received her Licensed Practical Nursing degree in 2016 and RN (registered nurse) in 2017. As a 2nd floor float nurse in the rural health clinic, she said she works a little bit of everywhere.

“Assisting other nurses within their pods, on phone triage, distributing faxes, assisting in immunizations, stocking/organizing clinic supplies and work areas, and being available to patients and providers when needed,” she said.

“The rural health clinic consists of 16 providers. Within those providers, we have those who also specialize in podiatry, internal medicine and pediatrics.

“Our nurses are compassionate and skilled. Within our nurses we have a Coumadin nurse, an immunization nurse, health coaches and a diabetic educator.”


Much of the past year has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Erwin said. She calls it challenging yet very rewarding.

In her department, patients call in to the clinic and make an appointment notifying scheduling of their symptoms.

“We then call these patients who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and determine their need for testing based off their symptoms, duration of symptoms and exposure.”

Even now they follow the same protocols. Patients must have symptoms for at least 24 hours but not more than seven days to qualify for rapid testing. If not within those parameters, patients can get the deep nasal pharyngeal swab known as PCR testing, with results taking up to 48 hours.

Patients are notified soon thereafter and treated appropriately.

“Phone triage also takes calls from patients who are either displaying symptoms of COVID-19, who were exposed to a positive COVID-19 person, or those who are currently positive for COVID-19,” Erwin explained.

“We triage these calls for those that may need to be tested/evaluated and place them on the schedule with a provider, those who are displaying shortness of breath/high fevers who may need to present to the ER, provide information on guidelines/isolation/quarantine protocols and reassurance to our patients with other questions/concerns.”

Working as a team has been critical to the success in handling COVID-19 patients, Erwin said. They all came together and provided a work flow and organization process that assisted in dealing with patients alongside others not dealing with COVID-19.

“We came up with a process that would minimize exposure to our healthy patients who still need to be seen for their health care, and utilized time management by creating a process where we review visit information, medications, allergies, etc. prior to their visit,” Erwin said.

“We then have them wait in their car until called, physically sanitize their hands, and walk them up to their appointment avoiding contact with other patients.”


Erwin reiterates what many continue to say, and that’s the fact that COVID-19 has not gone away, and vaccinations and health safety protocols such as washing hands and social distancing are keys to minimizing continued spread of the disease.

“There’s no magic pill for it,” she said. “It’s definitely still here, including the UK variant.

“Just getting the vaccine isn’t enough. Masking, social distancing, and hand washing are still very important.”

For people with chronic illness and even healthy folks, Erwin said we can’t just think of ourselves. People need to realize getting COVID-19 is much worse than getting the vaccine.

“Getting the vaccine not only helps ourselves not contract COVID-19 but helps everyone else, especially the elderly or those with weakened immune systems,” she said.