January 27, 2021

Ring in 2021 with a “Safety First” Attitude: Remain Vigilant in Slowing the Spread of COVID-19 Using Tried-and-True Strategies

Tonia Hale

Tonia Hale

By Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN

As we enthusiastically enter into the New Year 2021, most of us are likely very weary of COVID-19. It has been nearly a year of learning new and sometimes disturbing things about this virus, and altering our lives radically in many ways to stay safe. Back on New Year’s Day of 2020, most of us would never have dreamed we would be wearing masks in public or using terms like “stay-at-home order” on a regular basis.

There have been silver linings however, as we have faced this challenge, the likes of which we haven’t seen for more than a century. Communities have pulled together, cared for each other, and shown grace. I know we are all tired. Tired of hearing more bad news about growing numbers of infections and deaths, tired of the discovery about a new strain of the virus that is making its way around the globe, and tired of Zoom calls, remote learning and trying to figure out where our comfort level is every time we leave the house.

I understand too that people are psychologically fatigued by repeated reminders about continuing to observe the protocols that are proven to slow the spread of the virus, otherwise known as the “3 Ws”: Wear a mask, wait six feet apart and wash your hands frequently. I urge our community, in spite of the longing for normalcy and a “life before COVID,” to continue your efforts; this is absolutely not the time to let up on these practices.

It’s easy to become complacent and think that a little hug or just one meal shared with an in-person group are okay. Surely it won’t be that big a deal, you may think, but I assure you that these types of risks, even when taken rarely, can be responsible for significant viral spread in no time.

Similar to the rest of the country, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital (BRRH) has been dealing with a rise in COVID cases, but our stellar care team continues to provide extraordinary treatment to our patients, and take good care of each other as well. Recently, our gifted emergency department team leader and direct care RN Carrie James was interviewed on local radio station WTOE/WKYK for their My Health Matters segment.

Her comments reflected the fact that the dedicated physicians, nurses, CNAs and all other BRRH team members for that matter, remain steadfast in their efforts to follow all safety protocols and best practices as they treat all of our patients, whether they are COVID patients or dealing with another diagnosis. She spoke touchingly of the literal and figurative barrier that the masks, goggles, gowns and face shields create as she treats patients, but how, more than anything else, they keep her patients, her coworkers, her family and herself safe. As we hear so often from those who work in healthcare, they can’t imagine doing anything else — not even at a time like this.

I’m sure Carrie’s insights and message made a great impact on listeners, so I wanted to sum up her message of hope and determination for those who didn’t hear the broadcast. She openly acknowledged the worry that caring for COVID patients presents for caregivers and their families, yet her devotion to her patients remains as strong as when she began her nursing career 15 years ago. Even more impressive was when Carrie was asked why she continues to come to work — the reasons that she and her colleagues even want to be here in the midst of this pandemic and the uncertainty it brings — she couldn’t have expressed a more altruistic and heartening answer.

Carrie explained that the BRRH team is everything to her, from our doctors, nurses, radiology technologists, lab technicians, environmental services staff to the hospital’s leadership team. They inspire her with their level of dedication to our patients. She also pointed out that what makes a small rural hospital like BRRH special is that her patients are her community — friends, neighbors and the folks who teach our children and ring up our groceries. She mentioned also her deep appreciation for the notes and meals community members have generously provided for BRRH caregivers, and I will add again that adhering to the 3 Ws may be the most caring thing you can do for our team, your neighbors and yourself.

I join with Carrie in saying that BRRH is a special place to all who work here, including me, because of the family atmosphere. We are all in this together, especially now. Even though the pandemic may feel overwhelming now, we must remain vigilant, and that’s why, for example, we recently reinstituted Level 3 visitor restrictions at the hospital. It hurt to have to institute them, but the move benefits the greater good.

There are bright spots on the horizon though, the brightest one being the vaccine. I’ve never seen a rollout this rapid in my career, and am delighted to report that on December 20, 158 of our frontline healthcare team members received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This was a momentous event, and a critical step in flattening the curve and getting to the other side of this pandemic.

We need you to do your part. Please adhere to the 3 Ws to avoid overwhelming our healthcare delivery system. The numbers are rising, and only you can help them decline.

I know people are grieving about missing their families, doing the things we once took for granted, from having coffee with a friend to going to the movies, but by doing all we can to stay safe, we can avoid grieving the larger losses, like losing a loved one to this virus. Stay safe this coming year, and recommit to teaming up with all of us at BRRH to do all we can to prevent COVID-19 from traveling any further.

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital

Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine.

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving Mitchell, Yancey, lower Avery and upper McDowell counties. Located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital is a Critical Access Hospital operating 25 beds. Blue Ridge Regional Hospital offers medical specialties including emergency services, prenatal and postnatal obstetrical care, wound clinic, cardiac stress testing, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, nuclear medicine, 3D mammography, endoscopy services, critical care, rehabilitation services and fitness center, cancer services, orthopedics, general surgical services, pediatrics and family medicine, and walk-in, non-emergency care at Mission My Care Now Spruce Pine.