Jamie Samuels, a med-surg registered nurse at Centennial, Colo.-based Centura Health, was one of 34 caregivers who traveled to New Jersey to help several hospitals combat COVID-19.
Samuels was sent to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth on April 21, while some of her peers are helping St. Joseph’s Health and St. Peter’s Healthcare System. The industry is stronger when there’s collaboration over competition, she said.
“As far as heroes go, everyone that continues to pull together and give some of themselves to make it through this, there is heroism in that,” said Samuels, who will be there through May 17. “Even if you have only a little to give, whether it’s time, donations or a touch at the bedside, it goes very far.”
The caregivers had a hero’s send-off and reception, but reality hit quickly, said Peter Banko, president and CEO of Centura.
“They are around a tremendous amount of death,” said Banko, recalling one story of a Centura nurse who was working with a New Jersey orthopedist doing palliative care. “Everyone is thankful for their help and happy to assist, but they stepped into a different reality of what they were experiencing in Colorado.”
At Trinitas, one of Samuels’ younger patients was having difficulty coping. While his health was improving, he shared a room with an elderly man who was deteriorating quickly. As Samuels and her peers tried to save him, she looked out of the corner of her eye and could see the fear in the young man’s eyes.
“He was so broken down,” she said. “We had tried to find his family, but he was just coming out of a three-week fog and couldn’t remember their phone number. I saw that hunger for socialization, communication and love. Sometimes people are dying not because the medicine isn’t working, but from isolation.”
A renewed emphasis on the empathetic and social elements of healthcare would go a long way, she said. More redundancy in staffing and the supply chain would also help along with unit-specific emergency training, Samuels said.