'This has made us come together as a team'
Alyssa Chastain and Tiffany Austin, Neurological Clinic
In areas like neurosurgery, care goes on even as COVID-19 dominates the health care news.
Nurses Alyssa Chastain and Tiffany Austin have changed the way they work, to provide care for patients while keeping everyone safe.
"COVID-19 doesn't mean everything else doesn't exist anymore," Chastain says. "From brain tumors and metastatic disease to lumbar issues, patients still need that care."
A 'complete 180' on telemedicine
As the pandemic began and clinic volumes dropped, the clinic rapidly transitioned to serving patients remotely.
"We had one day of rest and then we did a complete 180 to start offering telemedicine," Austin says.
Physicians and providers all learned the technology and adjusted their practice to provide care remotely.
"We have a lot of patients in pain," Austin says. "They were very appreciative that they could stay home, still be seen and do an assessment virtually."
The technology meant the group could see their patients in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas and save them a trip.
The team learned to assess patients remotely. They guide patients through everything a patient would do in an in-person assessment: raising their limbs, walking and more. If the patient has a second person in the home, that person can help with strength assessments.
"People are excited to participate in the exam, helping out with simple things they can do," Austin says. "We did a lot of explaining over the phone how to use the technology. Once I knew what to do, I was able to explain. It made me grow as a nurse and as a person."
Teamwork: 'everyone is making a difference'
Learning a new way to work improved the team in other ways as well.
"Our communication got better – we found creative ways to work around the fact that we were doing neuro assessments while not in the room," Chastain says.
Austin and Chastain say adjusting to the realities of the pandemic has reinforced teamwork in the clinic.
"It has made us come together as a team. We check in on each other and make sure our wellbeing is where it needs to be," Austin says.
Chastain says that as surgeries opened back up, the team continued to look out for one another. They remind each other to take breaks and the occasional walk for mental clarity.
"You can definitely get sucked in. You can sit here 24/7 and all the work won't be done. We all need to take the mental breaks," Chastain says. "Be mindful of everyone around you. We are all in this together."
That sentiment extends to everyone working in health care right now.
"This is not just about nurses and doctors," Austin says. "It's everyone, from Grounds to Environmental Services to the cafeteria. I wouldn't have lived through this without the cafeteria! I want everyone working through this to know: You are needed and you are appreciated. Everyone is making a difference."