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Nurses Week - Public Health Newspaper

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  • Written By: Bob Bjoin
Nurses Week - Public Health Newspaper

COUNTY – Public health nurses Lori Hoch, Cathy Drury, Cathy Buman and Jane Klein have done a remarkable job of managing everything from public information and contacting tracing to vaccination distribution and manning the phone lines during the past year.

They have worked one-on-one with the schools and long-term-care facilities. They’ve done pharmacy runs for patients or picked up groceries for those who are sick and need food. They coordinated online meetings with local businesses.

“I think we were very self-aware, especially when November hit, that there was a lot of work to be done,” said Hoch. “We had 50 cases in one day, and the realization came that we needed to divide and conquer in order to make this work.”

Public Information

Nobody could foreshadow what the next year would bring back in March, 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic burst onto the global front. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, with millions sickened across the world.

In the United States alone as of this week, the approximate numbers stand at 32.2 million cases and 573,000 deaths.

Locally, Shelby County as of this week has seen 1,353 cases with 37 deaths.

Hoch said early on the group began planning how best to inform local residents about the COVID-19 disease and needed public health measures such as masking, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. Drury was responsible for working closely with the schools, Buman with long-term-care facilities, and Klein as the disease investigator. Hoch coordinated the efforts and filled in each area as needed.

“I think that was a defining moment when we got together and said, hey, we need to divide and conquer here,” Hoch said. “Everybody was willing to take their roll and step up to the plate, and do what needed to be done to get us through.”

Drury and Buman said as a team they did a great job of supporting each other and the citizens of the community.

They fielded dozens of phone calls each day, provided press releases and public information about COVID-19 and its effects, and coordinated informational videos from health care providers for the public, all in an effort to provide poignant and accurate messages.

“We were giving constant, continuous, consistent messaging all through the pandemic,” said Hoch. “We would do monitoring calls. We would check in with people to see how they are doing. We were able to care coordinate for them if they weren’t doing so well.

“We even had to call 911 on a few occasions to get immediate help.”

Added Drury, “We provided emotional support for each other and support for people we talked to on the phone, delivering medications to them -- we would get them food, groceries, drop off thermometers if need be.

“We were supportive here but also for patients as well.”

Said Buman,” There were a lot of pharmacy runs. There were some occasions where we were just a much-needed emotional support for these folks.

“They would get pretty discouraged because they were away from their families or they weren’t working and they needed to know that somebody understood and cared.”

Drury said the team conducted Zoom® meetings with businesses so they were understanding what the protocols and procedures would be should someone in their office be exposed to someone with COVID-19 or get the disease. Quarantine and isolation questions were common.

Weekly online meetings were held with school administrations as well.

Vaccination Clinics

Starting in November, 2020, planning began for how to administer coming vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

“That was a turning point too, when we could do something proactive to help our fellow citizens,” said Hoch.

Thousands of vaccines have since been put in the arms of Shelby Countians through the public health department and local pharmacies. The citizens have been receptive and appreciative.

“When we started doing the vaccination clinics, the thank yous that these people would say to us (was heartwarming),” said Drury. “How appreciative they were.

“Just seeing it in their eyes and being able to smile after that second shot. Sometimes they would cry. That makes it all worth it.”

There still is vaccine availability for those who want to be vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated people are highly unlikely to contract COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated,” said Klein. “All COVID-19 vaccines are 95-98%. No vaccine is 100%, but your chances of getting COVID-19 after fully vaccinated are very low.”

The disease is not just a cold, said Buman. Drury says it doesn’t discriminate.

Hoch said with the vaccine there are potential side effects, but much less severe than the disease and its possible symptoms and long-term consequences for some.

“We have the power to prevent it. We have the tools in our tool chest to prevent it. We don’t have to let COVID-19 rule our lives,” she said.

For those who are opting not to get the vaccine, she encourages them to really think through what they’re saying no to.

Moving Forward

All four public health nurses said they initially entered the profession to help people. For Hoch, she actually thought she might someday see a pandemic, and that it could happen.

“I prayed and hoped it would not, but it did,” she said. She’s glad she’s been able to assist people through her career and make a difference.

Drury started as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and loved it.

“Helping and seeing what it I was able to do for them,” she said. “The happiness on their face from being able to do something for them makes it all worth it.”

Buman entered the health care field relatively later in life, also as a CNA, but also was hooked immediately. “Once I got my feet wet, I realized how much as a CNA I was loving the work and never looked back.”

While the pandemic the past year has created challenges, Shelby County Public Health has been a beacon of positivity, with greener pastures and hopes for getting back to some sense of normal soon.

Hoch said she’s always felt that she could handle most anything, and the public health team has made serving Shelby County during the pandemic that much easier and satisfying.

“Having these three wonderful ladies who stepped up and exceeded every expectation that I could ever have had made this job doable,” she said.

“The best part of being a team is being a part of a team.”