For Beth Batcher, RN, caring for patients in the emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic is a privilege she doesn’t take for granted.
A nurse and clinical mentor in the emergency department (ED) at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Batcher and her team always care for patients with dignity and grace. Even amid the coronavirus health care crisis, that heartfelt compassion comes through, despite the 12-hour shifts they spend armored in protective masks, gloves and goggles.
“Having COVID-19 is overwhelming and frightening,” says Batcher. “We want to make things as comfortable as possible while we provide the care our patients need. We remember to smile with our eyes behind the mask to look less intimidating and more welcoming [even] with all of our equipment on.”
Because COVID-19 health and safety restrictions prevent patients from seeing family or other visitors in person, Batcher and her emergency department colleagues help make those connections virtually using iPads, cell phones and other technology. In this way, even very sick or dying patients can talk with and see their loved ones, and care providers become family extenders.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be there ... to be the extension of their family when their family’s not allowed in.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to be there, to hold their hand, to be the extension of their family when their family’s not allowed in,” says Batcher. “We want to be there for them.”
In return, the community has been there for hospital staff, Batcher adds. Support from the local community helps to keep the teams going, from donated meals and snacks to drawings and letters from children and signs posted outside the hospital.
“We feel so loved and enveloped in support,” she says. “We can’t express how much the generosity of our community and patients means to us and how it lifts us up.”
While COVID-19 presents a crisis situation, there are also other health care emergencies that need immediate attention. The ED team at Scripps La Jolla reconfigured their practices so they could continue to provide a safe environment and quality care for every patient who comes through their doors, not just those with COVID-19.
“We designated specific areas in our ED for COVID-19 patients in order to protect ourselves and our patients and provide the most efficient, compassionate and effective care to this population,” says Batcher. “We want to make sure that the right people are at the right places at the right times so we can continue caring and supporting our community.”
Emergency rooms are safe, and patients shouldn’t hesitate to go there or call 911 if they are experiencing a health emergency that is not coronavirus-related.