Mending broken bones and bruises, healing cuts, scrapes and sore throats.
It’s all in a day’s work for a nurse practitioner. The last
two years, however, have been anything but ordinary. “We did not
know what to expect. Our team pulled together like an amazing puzzle and
all the pieces fit together incredibly,” says
Teresa Howard, FNP-BC, a family nurse practitioner at
Southeast Georgia Health System’s Glynn Immediate Care Center (ICC). For Howard and her colleagues, no two days are the same.
“In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, protocols implemented
in the morning often changed by noon. Learning to roll with the punches
has been vital,” says
Holly Kinsey, FNP-C, Glynn Immediate Care Center.
The Power of Partnerships
Immediate care plays an essential role in small towns like Brunswick.
“We help span the gap when a person is injured or ill and cannot
be seen by their primary care provider. We alleviate wait times in the
emergency room by treating things like colds, sprains, lacerations and
COVID-19. We work in conjunction with every department within the Health
Whitney Johnson, FNP-BC,
Glynco Immediate Care Center.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are often one of the first faces a patient
sees during a health crisis. Johnson remembers a young man who had pain
in one of his testicles. After his exam, she sent him for an immediate
ultrasound. He needed surgery, which saved his testicle. “He had
a great outcome because the Health System worked together to get him appropriate
intervention in a timely manner,” Johnson recalls.
In a clinic where medical needs run the gamut from routine physicals to
treatment for injuries, chronic diseases and life-threatening illnesses,
the FNPs must think on their feet. “We are constantly brainstorming
to adjust to our community’s rapidly changing health needs,”
When the coronavirus arrived, the team transformed their clinic operations.
Working extra shifts to meet demand, the nurses performed curbside tests,
answered the COVID-19 hotline, called patients with test results and treated
infected patients. To reduce the strain on the emergency room and inpatient
floors, “Our clinics became a mini-ER. We would diagnose, develop
treatment plans and recheck patients daily. Our staff worked together
to get patients medication, oxygen and medical equipment. It was an emotional
time for families and staff, and we were right in the middle,” says
Howard. She saw people “crying their heart out” because a
hospitalized family member had been placed on a ventilator or died.
Reflecting on the FNPs’ “selfless efforts day in and day out,”
Practice Manager Beth Hall comments, “I cannot say enough about
the ICC teams and their dedication to excellent patient care.”
There were high points even during the hard times. Those frequent rechecks
kept many patients out of the hospital and recovering at home. “To
be on the frontlines of this pandemic was scary, but also exhilarating.
We were excited when new methods, medicines and treatments showed promising
results. And we got even more excited when patients returned for rechecks
and had better oxygen levels and could move farther without shortness
of breath,” Kinsey says.
Watching her staff in action made Hall feel part of a winning team. “It
can be challenging to ensure that everyone receives appropriate care in
a timely manner, but they have risen to the occasion time and again. I
am consistently impressed with their versatility and commitment to be
sure each patient receives their complete attention, regardless of how
busy the day is.”
Making a Difference
Contemplating the energy poured into pandemic care during the last two
years, Kinsey says, “We felt like we were making a difference in
patient lives, and that has been priceless. It always touches my heart
to know I’ve helped someone.”
Howard agrees. “The most meaningful aspect of working in the Immediate
Care Centers is caring for patients in a timely manner, building trust
and developing relationships.” She knows she has earned trust when
patients return to seek care again.
For Johnson, nothing is more satisfying than helping patients achieve
good health. She remains enthusiastic about her profession. “I enjoy
being able to help others!”
If the pandemic was a test, the Immediate Care Center FNPs passed with