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Front line workers in North Carolina share experiences via video diaries

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 1:52 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Front line medical workers in North Carolina are describing their difficult experiences amid the pandemic through video diary entries. Here is a look at one:

“My name is James Cook. I’m the chaplain at Novant health here in Salisbury, North Carolina. People often ask me what it’s like being a chaplain during the Covid-19 pandemic. Every day we come to work and we check in, check our temperature, we’re asked many questions about our health, we’re handed a mask we have to wear goggles. Just doing that can be stressful, getting ready for the day. 

Again, we never know what the day holds. We never know what we’re going to run into. Particularly with our Covid patients, they’re in isolation. In the beginning, some of the rooms were closed off. We had had HEPA filters that were put into the rooms making sure that all of the rooms were negative pressure. 

We don’t have the opportunity to go into the rooms as chaplains, just a doctor nurse respiratory therapists, those working directly with the patient, it’s created opportunities to be creative as a chaplain, going in and standing at the door waving at the patient, giving them the thumbs up making sure that they’re okay we’re thinking about them. The positive things have been that we, we again, are being creative. I call into some of the rooms when a patient is in isolation to see how they’re doing to see if, if their spiritual care leader has checked in on them, or their family member has checked in on them, because it can be lonely. 

We as chaplains like to sit down and offer a prayer many times with patients -- they’ll reach out to us with their hand to hold hands with him when we have prayer. And we have to say, I can’t hold your hand, but I’m here with you. To make sure that they’re they’re not alone, that God is with them that we’re here as a team and caring for them caring for our community. 

Many stories of patients leaving as well. On several occasions, we’ve had parades in the hallway when patients have been here for such a long time. I know of at least three patients who have been here two months, and they were on a ventilator over the course of the virus disease process. they’ve improved and were discharged. I had a nurse who also tested positive and she had to leave work. And over the course of time, she became better and now she’s back to work. So she knows firsthand what it’s like to go through this virus. It’s been very difficult, again, stressful.

All of us here in the hospital, are caring for our patients. We’re making sure that they feel like that we’re thinking about them, praying for them, we cheer them on, encourage them, and and make sure that their spiritual care leaders are aware of what’s going on. Of course they can’t come in to visit, they can make phone calls to the room. I encourage those leaders, spiritual care leaders to make sure that they touch base with them. 

Sometimes it’s it’s very, very stressful. I know of several times where we’ve had Code Blue for a patient who is Covid positive, and the stress of putting on all of our PPE’s is stressful,l going into the room for those who those first responders. Very stressful for team members.

We as chaplains also provide encouragement to them, making sure that they have opportunities to vent, to to vent and to share some of their own fears. Some of them have had family members who are compromised in some way -- diabetes COPD, they may have a child or a parent in their home that they’re concerned about. In the beginning, many of them were staying somewhere else. They were staying in a hotel until they felt like that they could be anywhere near them. 

So all of the stressors that you hear about out in the community, and also, hearing from our community and supporting us, I know that the fire department, police department, first responders, did a parade around our hospital to support us frontline workers. That goes a long ways. Sometimes you don’t always see the results of your work, either as a chaplain or a doctor or nurse. But we know that we’re making a difference during this time and we encourage everyone to wear those masks and to wash your hands and stay safe.”

Stay with WITN both on air and online as we continue to share these front line workers’ stories.

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