If the past year taught us anything, it is how quickly our world can change.
We’ve endured a dark season, but could be turning a corner. “The
COVID-19 vaccine is a sign of hope and might restore a sense of normalcy.
So many people remain steadfast in their efforts to stay safe and are
so appreciative of the vaccine. We’ve vaccinated thousands already,
and have vaccinated as much as 800 people a day at our Camden location
alone. Our roll-out has gone really well. We’re grateful to be part
of the vaccine initiative,” says Michelle Cox, MBA, BSN, R.N., NE-BC.
As manager of Clinical Education at Southeast Georgia Health System, Cox
oversees seven educators who educate and train nurses, doctors and other
clinicians, as well as two educators who teach diabetes education to hospital
staff and out-patients. A 30-year Health System employee and veteran of
the nursing profession, June Paul, R.N., BSN is one of the clinical instructors
assisting Cox. “As educators, we get to see our team members in
action at the bedside, feeling confident and comfortable in their skill
An Ongoing Quest
Vaccine distribution is just an aspect of clinical education. Medical
advances never stop, and neither does learning. Every test and procedure
requires training before it reaches the patient. Each doctor, nurse or
clinician responsible for your care must master the latest processes and
policies, quality measures, organizational and clinical goals. That’s
not possible without continuing education. “We’re constantly
learning new practices. We have to stay on our toes,” says Cox.
It’s a tall order, but Health System employees rise to the challenge.
“I like the commitment I see in our team members. They are hungry
for professional development and ways to engage with our patients. It
feels good, working alongside people who truly want to serve others,” adds Cox.
Cox and Paul empower that desire to serve by cultivating relationships
through education. They encourage clinicians to explore new and better
ways to meet patient needs and ensure outcome-focused care. “Staff
members don’t just complete tasks, they look at the end results.
For example, a patient may have been prescribed medication for high blood
pressure, but their blood pressure has actually been lower than what’s
normal. The nurse makes the clinical decision to hold the medication and
notify the physician. They’re thinking about how the medication
may affect the patient’s blood pressure versus just thinking about
the task of administering medicine,” Paul says.
Navigating a New Normal
The Clinical Education team was busy before the pandemic; over the last
year, they took on even more responsibility. “COVID training and
support is at the forefront of all we do. It’s very different from
anything we’ve done before,” Cox says. And it’s all
done on the go, with little time for planning. It begins with training
staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) practices and proper methods
for collecting COVID test specimens. It continues through the care of
COVID patients and how to open new COVID units. It’s anything but
“one and done”. Every new nurse hired receives specialized
training. “We want to make sure everyone feels safe and has the
knowledge to care for COVID patients,” Cox says, adding, “Health
care workers must be flexible in order to reprioritize quickly. That helps
you stay resilient and positive.”
Paul reflects on some of the changes. “At the beginning of the pandemic,
our education team sterilized and delivered masks to the nursing units.
A couple of the educators worked with patients at the bedside. We worked
with the discharge nurse to discharge patients going home and we helped
admit new patients. We also assisted the Senior Care Centers with weekly
COVID-19 testing of residents and staff. Pre-COVID, these duties were
not a part of an educator’s role.”
Clinical knowledge helps frontline workers stay safe, but the educators
also provide emotional support, including resiliency support and training.
A “Care Cart” with drinks and snacks travels through units
to reach providers who can’t leave the bedside of seriously ill
patients. Hospital chaplains provide emotional and spiritual support.
Between training sessions, educators diligently disinfect tables and chairs,
and restock single-use training materials. “We also focus on wellness.
If anyone has cold-like symptoms, we encourage them to stay home.”
Working tirelessly behind the scenes, Michelle Cox, June Paul and their
co-workers prepare the staff for another day’s battle with the coronavirus.
Their dedication benefits everyone. “Educators must have a passion
for seeing how we’re all connected. Team member education ultimately
reaches our patients,” Cox says. Her colleague agrees. “I
believe in what we do to serve our community and support one another,”
To ensure the resiliency of your community hospital during this time, please
call Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360.