By Tiffany Griffin, Patient Services Manager at Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital, Columbus, Ga.
Showing compassion for our associates and patients has been one of the keys to doing our jobs well during COVID-19.
Back in March, our hospital in Columbus, Georgia, was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. I’m responsible for 28 associates on the patient dining team and many were concerned about the possibility of walking into a suspected COVID patient’s room and becoming infected.
One day, it happened. One of our associates didn’t know that one of the patients tested positive for COVID-19 and unknowingly interacted with them. The associate began to cry and came to me for help. After conferring with health professionals at the hospital, she was sent home to self-isolate.
This woman is a friend, a dedicated worker and a mother, so I texted her daily to see if I could help her. Once her quarantine ended, she texted and asked for a ride to the hospital to be tested for COVID-19. I put on my N95 mask, picked her up and brought her to the hospital for her test. Fortunately, her test came back negative. She went back to work, keeping her life and career intact.
When it comes to patients, we’re doing our best to lift their spirits. A couple of months ago, I had an idea to motivate my staff and help them keep fighting.
I told them, “I know that we’re scared, but could we take a moment to think about how scary this must be for the COVID patients in our hospital? How alone they must feel, how they’re going through the scariest thing imaginable without the people they love by their side.”
I asked our staff to take time during the day to decorate the disposable trays used to serve patients in the COVID-19 unit. And we purchased markers for each tray, so our staff members communicate with each patient.
When the associates asked what they should communicate to these patients, I told them to write something from the heart, but most importantly, write something that would motivate you if you were in the hospital battling COVID-19 alone.
I was blown away by the response. Some wrote passages from scriptures, while others drew amazing pictures and wrote messages of encouragement. A few days later, our hospital did our first Hero Walk for a COVID patient that was discharged from our unit. We cheered as she was wheeled out to be reunited with her husband outside.
But as she went by, I noticed something in a bag. She was taking her disposable tray home with her! I couldn’t read the message on the tray, but her decision to take it home with her almost brought me to tears. I knew in that moment that we made a difference.
Showing compassion not only lifted our patients’ spirits but helped all of us get through a difficult period. It also provided a significant and timely boost for morale for the patients, hospital staff and our department. Everyone’s anxiety and fear lessened as we wrote messages and drew artwork on the trays. One team member commented that decorating these trays was a bright spot in her day and it reminded her of the importance of those we serve every day.
As the pandemic continues, we will need to continue to be vigilant. The safety of our associates and our patients is paramount. But showing compassion for everyone is one way we will an impact on everyone who needs us during this challenging period.
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