May 8, 2021
Home Health Care During COVID
By Rachel Livingston, BSN, RN, William Newton Home Health Director
We have seen inside “peeks” of hospitals around the country fighting COVID-19; doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and others in full personal protective equipment (PPE) caring for the sick with such grace, bravery, and determination. But I am going to give you a peek of another group of people providing direct care to COVID-19 patients: the home health nurse. Home health nurses are no strangers to patient care during a pandemic. Look no further than the Spanish Flu in 1918 when the then-termed “visiting nurses” were vital in caring for the acutely ill.
“Susie” is a home health nurse heading to a new patients home, a COVID-19 patient. This patient, “Bill” was discharged from the hospital yesterday as he was deemed stable enough to go home and free up a hospital bed for the next patient. He is at home now with oxygen, extremely weak, and exhausted. When Susie arrives at Bill’s home, she takes out her bag of PPE that she put together before she left the office. She double checked she isn’t forgetting anything knowing someone would have to drive across town to bring anything to her. Susie puts on her PPE while standing on Bill’s porch before going in. While Susie is assessing Bill, she is sure to remain standing, knowing when she leaves his home she will have to go sit back down in her personal car. During her assessment, Bill lets Susie know due to his weakness he is having trouble getting from his recliner, across the living room and to the restroom. Knowing what to do, Susie rearranges the living room furniture, moving the recliner across the room so it’s closer to the restroom. Susie then educates Bill and his wife on his new oxygen, new medications, and use of the nebulizer he was sent home with. She also discusses the signs they need to watch for and when to contact the on-call home health nurse or go to the ER. After Susie answers their questions and tries to calm their fears, Bill’s wife admits that Bill is usually the one that takes the trash can to the curb because it’s too heavy for her. She sheepishly asks if Susie would mind doing it. Of course Susie will help them with this and says she’ll take the trash can down when she leaves. Before Susie leaves, she bags the paperwork Bill touched and signed then leaves her pen and the blood pressure cuff in the home for the next visit. Susie steps outside the home onto the porch, dripping sweat while she removes her PPE to throw away in a bag strategically placed outside before entering the home. She then douses herself in hand sanitizer before getting in her car to head on to her next patient’s home to do it all over again.
The impact of COVID-19 far exceeds what the media has shown; it touches the lives of so many and in various ways. William Newton Home Health is proud to stand on the front lines with the other brave providers and be a part of a patient’s journey to recovery.
The "Weekend Check-Up" is a regular health column published in the Cowley Courier Traveler penned by employees and friends of William Newton Hospital.