FRONTLINE HEROES: Southeast Georgia Health System Infection Preventionist Lynn Reynolds

By DERRICK DAVIS, Sports editor, The Brunswick News, April 27, 2020

There is likely no one in Glynn County more qualified to handle the COVID-19 pandemic than Lynn Reynolds.

Reynolds has been a registered nurse for 44 years, and she’s spent the last 28 specializing in infection prevention. For the last 11 years, Reynolds has been the Infection Preventionist at Southeast Georgia Health System where her primary responsibility is to avert any potential health care-related sickness.

“As an Infection Preventionist for both Brunswick and Camden Campus, I am responsible for identifying, investigating, monitoring, and reporting healthcare-associated infections,” Reynolds said. “I investigate incidents of infections and report such incidents to the appropriate team member or department. I ensure that existing standards and evidenced-based guidelines of applicable professional organizations and regulatory and governmental agencies are utilized to prevent these infections in our patients.

“I conduct rounds on the nursing units and supporting departments, both inpatient and outpatient areas, to monitor and analyze process and outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of the evidenced-based practices we have implemented.”

Normally, Reynolds is on the lookout for various surgical site infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections that patients can contract in a hospital, but her focus has shifted a bit recently.

The infectious nature of COVID-19 makes coming within close contact of potential carriers a risk, especially considering they can be completely asymptomatic. Prevention of any such contamination is even more crucial at hospitals where there are naturally more people at higher risk of severe illness.

Thus, Reynolds is now spending more time collaborating with key players in the planning and coordination of infection prevention activities, including rapid identification of suspect cases, immediate isolation and referral for testing and adherence to standard infection prevention precautions to prevent healthcare-associated transmission of COVID-19 among the Southeast Georgia Health Care System’s team members and patients.

Reynolds is also responsible for communicating test results to patients and notifying the Georgia Department of Public Health of all positive cases, as well as EMS partners that may have transported COVID patients to the health system.

An active member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading professional association for infection preventionists, and president-elect for the organization’s Georgia chapter, Reynolds is the go-to source for COVID-related questions within the health system. She provides education to patients, community groups and team members on any infection prevention concerns, attempting to sit down with dedicated COVID units at least once per to answer any inquiries.

“They always have a lot of questions, and there’s a lot of gossip out there, so I try to ease and squish some of the gossip they’re hearing,” Reynolds said. “I am a resource for the nurses, and I’ve spoken with environmental services and the operating room, so I’m kind of available for that too.”

So far, coastal Georgia has been relatively safe from the COVID-19 outbreak. On Friday, the eight-county Coastal Health District reported 400 cases of the disease — 52 in Glynn County, 28 in Camden, and four in McIntosh — and six total deaths out of the more than 22,000 cases and 892 deaths statewide as reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Reynolds believes the more open, rural nature of southeast Georgia has helped limit the spread in the area, but she and her team aren’t lowering their guards.

Southeast Georgia Health System has done its best to conserve personal protective equipment, IV fluids, medication, etc., in event of a large, sudden influx of patients. Reynolds feels her team is ready for anything.

“I think overall, our team members who are assigned to our COVID-positive patients are really upbeat,” she said. “It’s really surprising how everybody’s kind of rallied together and make the best out of the situation.

“A lot of things have changed from when we originally found out about COVID-19, as far as the guidance from the CDC, so there was a lot of confusion. Now I feel like everybody is onboard. We know what we need to do to stop the spread. But the staff has been phenomenal. They really have come together as a really strong team.”

With as active a role Reynolds has had to take on during the pandemic, it might be a blessing she doesn’t have any children at home and a retired register nurse as a husband that fully supports and understands her commitment and dedication to infection prevention.

Still, it’s been difficult at times for her to not have direct access to her children living in California, Florida and Virginia.

“Fortunately, my husband and I are empty-nesters,” Reynolds said. “However, unfortunately, my children and grandchildren live in other states and we have not be able to visit them with the travel restrictions and self-isolating among the states and my work load. We do a lot of FaceTime.”

Local citizens and businesses have acknowledged the sacrifices Reynolds and other team members at Southeast Georgia Health System are making for the general public, and have done their best to show their appreciation.

Over the past few weeks, the Brunswick and Camden campuses have received various PPE, food and monetary donations from a variety of businesses and organizations. Brunswick High alumnus, and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, Darius Slay even donated 175 meals to workers at SGHS.

The support has been much appreciated by Reynolds and her coworkers.

“Please feel assured that all the team members at the Health System are committed to keeping our patients safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “On behalf of Southeast Georgia Health System, I would like to thank the community for their support and understanding of the restrictions the health system has had to implement to ensure the safety of our patients, team members and our community.

“And please remember to sanitize or wash your hands often and cover your cough. Together, we can stop the transmission of COVID-19.”