As COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge upwards, Walter
Alexander, R.N., receives an important call in the midst of his assiduous
work as a House Manager at Southeast Georgia Health System. Two teenage
granddaughters are requesting to visit and say goodbye to their beloved
grandmother who isn’t expected to live much longer. Even though
the girls’ grandmother has not been diagnosed with COVID-19, Alexander
must carefully consider whether an exception to the hospital’s tightened
visitation policy can be made. Currently, only one visitor per patient
is allowed per day as efforts are desperate to minimize the spread of
the coronavirus. “We have to strike a balance between compassion
and safety for our patients and staff,” explains Alexander who has
been employed by the Health System for 22 years. “There often isn’t
a right answer. We just aim to provide the least wrong answer.”
This type of weighty decision is just one of many to be made in the day
in the life of the five House Managers at the Health System.
Ernie Stegall, BSN, MHA, R.N, director, Nursing Administration, Southeast
Georgia Health System, helps describe the position of a house manager.
“It is a pivotal role to successful operations of the Health System.
They possess the global view of patient appropriate placement and serve
as a liaison for patients, patient families, team members and physicians.”
In addition to monitoring patient flow and bed placement, staffing coordination,
employee relations, rounds, reporting, and more, house managers are key
problem solvers. Alexander says “We tend to be the point of contact
whenever our nursing staff aren’t sure what to do, and with all
of the new things with COVID-19, that is quite often.” Stegall adds
that house managers are “champions in juggling multiple items during
Mitchell Sandifer, R.N., has worked with the Health System for seven years.
As a house manager, he enjoys the opportunity to positively impact patient
care throughout the care continuum. “I appreciate the small-town
community-based approach that our hospital employs. Although based in
Glynn County, we serve a much larger rural area in which access to quality
health care would be unattainable without our care,” says Sandifer.
Alexander adds “It’s difficult, challenging, and sometimes
thankless but can also be rewarding. You have to make the decisions that
keep the hospital functional and efficient.” Fortunately, Alexander
was able to allow the granddaughters a brief visit with their grandmother.
Dealing with today’s huge influx in COVID-19 cases demands even
more critical thinking and creative solutions from the house managers.
Sandifer says “The coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect
of our job. With so many moving parts, a task before that would have taken
five minutes now takes 15 minutes.”
Simply put, the significant increase in COVID-19 cases has greatly limited
access to life-saving health care services, not just for those affected
with the virus. This means patients with accident injuries, heart issues,
and other critical illnesses no longer have as many emergency care beds
and resources available to them because of the pandemic.
Alexander pleads with the public to “Please be patient and kind.
Our staff is doing everything we can to take care of your loved ones.”
Sometimes, that means nurses and other staff not spending as much time
talking to a patient’s family members. “The pandemic has been
hard both physically and mentally for health care workers,” adds
Sandifer. “We also understand that patients and families are equally
Southeast Georgia Health System offers COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines for all
individuals age 12 and older. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins
are accepted, subject to vaccine availability. To learn more or to make
an appointment, visit sghs.org/covid19-vaccine.