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Physician on the Front Lines

Caring for COVID-19 patients inside the Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista emergency department

A shift in the Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista emergency department starts and ends with a huddle and a prayer.


“A doctor, nurse or technician will lead the huddle, and it is just a moment for us to look out for each other and take care of each other,” says Jackie Reardon, DO, emergency medicine physician. “We really feel supported by our chaplain team and by the rest of the staff in the hospital so we can do our job of taking care of very ill patients.”

“We do feel the community is reaching out to us and trying to wrap its arms around us to help keep us safe.”

What is already an intense, fast-paced and high-stress job has heightened in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus cases in the emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit has increased. Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista is treating more COVID-19 patients than any other hospital in the Scripps system, and has the smallest ED with 24 beds.


“We are doing everything we can to protect patients who don’t have coronavirus and keep them well, while treating those with the virus,” she says. 


That includes setting up surge tents to provide COVID-19 screening away from other hospital patients, when there are higher volumes. In addition, the use of rapid COVID-19 testing is speeding diagnosis and treatment, including accelerating admissions and consultations with specialists on the inpatient side.


There is also the fear of staff contracting COVID-19 themselves or exposing a family member. 


“The fear is part of our daily lives because we do not want to take it home with us,” she adds. “We are extremely careful with donning and doffing our personal protective equipment and taking every safeguard while at work. “Personally, I don’t know the last time I have been able to give my kids a hug or a kiss.”


There have been wins and lessons learned along the way. She shares that communication between the command center at Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista and others throughout the system has been fantastic with mobilizing additional staff, beds at other hospitals, supplies and supporting physician collaboration. 


“We realize what a fantastic network we do have with Scripps, and we are able to use all of our resources, not just the resources in Chula Vista,” she says. “That’s very heartening for us to be able to do our jobs and take care of patients.”

Dr. Reardon says that the support of the community is greatly appreciated, from people doing their part to stay safe by sheltering in place, to donating food, supplies and philanthropic gifts. 


“We do feel the community is reaching out to us and trying to wrap its arms around us to help keep us safe while we care for people who are so sick and who need us,” adds Dr. Reardon. “We would not be able to do our jobs right now without your support. We are incredibly grateful for your generosity.”