New Standards Emerge as Old Routines Vanish in Emergency Room
Working in the Emergency Department, Teri Ciccone, MD, has come to expect the unexpected. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing what’s coming, but not knowing when, is the hard part. “When these sick people come in, they’re really sick and it’s really scary,” Dr. Ciccone said.
Life has changed for everyone, but especially medical workers. With so many businesses closed and people working from home, Dr. Ciccone says the ride to work at Winchester Hospital is a lot faster. But when he arrives at the hospital’s door, his old routine at the end of his commute vanishes. He cannot touch the door knobs. Instead, he pushes the automatic door’s button with his elbow and heads in to immediately put on his personal protective equipment (PPE) and he remains covered all day. No longer is his smile seen as he greets patients as it is hidden by his mask. He must use the inflection of his voice and his eyes to show his kindness.
At the end of the day, Dr. Ciccone removes his mask, gown and gloves and drives home. There, he takes off his clothes in the garage and quickly heads up to the shower in an effort to limit the spread of germs to his family. So far, he and his family have stayed healthy.
Another challenging aspect is the fact that hospitals around the country, including Winchester, have had to limit visitors in order to protect patients and visitors against the virus. While this is a necessary step to stop potential spread, Dr. Ciccone has seen the human impact firsthand. A woman whose husband had to be intubated called him one day. “She was so upset,” Dr. Ciccone recalled. “She said, ‘Doctor, is this the virus? Am I going to lose my husband?’” He reassured her that they were doing everything they could for her husband, but that is all physicians and other medical staff can do at this point. “[This outbreak] takes away what a loved one can do for a sick loved one.” Medical staff go above and beyond to help keep the human connection between patients and families: setting up video calls, bringing messages of hope from families and more. The method of delivery has changed but the caring remains.
Through the hard times, the Winchester community has turned out in droves to support everyone who works at Winchester Hospital. You can’t spend more than 10 minutes at the hospital without a passing car honking as it heads down Highland Avenue during the day. People have dropped off signs of encouragement outside the Emergency Department.
“One of the biggest ways you can help support us right now is philanthropy,” Dr. Ciccone explained. The hospital’s Healthcare Heroes Fund was established in March in order to provide frontline caregivers the resources and support they need — from PPE to assistance with childcare and other essentials while they work long shifts, saving lives.