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Your Healthy Family: What UCHealth nurse, new on the front lines treating COVID patients wants everyone to know

Posted at 9:31 AM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 11:31:06-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Following up on our last story about how UCHealth is dealing with the current surge in COVID patients in their hospitals by moving some nurses from desk jobs and other departments back to the bedside. We introduced you to Patti Loper, is a registered nurse who works in the quality control but is now starting her second week back at the bedside, helping with COVID patients.

Patti says, “When the fall came with the colder weather our cases began to raise, and we were asked basically to drop everything. It happened pretty quick because our numbers were steadily increasing, and then we started to see them jump.”

Patti says the patients she is seeing now need various levels of care. “These are some of the sickest critical care patients I have ever seen in my career. The patients in the intensive care unit, most of them, are intubated and are not awake and it takes at least two people to be able to do what we need to do for these patients.”

While there are more COVID patients, the majority of them are not so sick they are in the ICU, Patti says they are still very sick. “In the spring it was a novel virus, and we didn't know much about it. Now our providers and physicians are much more educated on what therapies work for these patients. They may not all be in intensive care, but they are so sick they can’t be at home. Some of the medical surgical patients are requiring an immense amount of oxygen. COVID is not just a respiratory virus, we're learning it's also a vascular virus, so you can have different types of presenting symptoms. But for sure we have more knowledge, and we’re more effective we are with our treatments. The nurses that have been on these units from the beginning tell me from their experience we aren't seeing some of the crisis that the patients went into in the spring, because we are preventing some of those issues because we know better what to do - right off the bat.”

It’s those nurses who have been on the front lines from the beginning that Patti takes great pride in helping out as well. “These bedside people have been dealing with this issue since the spring, and they are tired. I am tired - and I've only done it for a week, so I can't imagine the amount of exhaustion they are going through. To be able to give them an extra pair of hands has been very rewarding for me, and they have express their appreciation. I had several people say you really, really saved me today and that makes it all worthwhile.”

And who long is Patti prepared to be back at the bedside? “We don't know, the schedule is out until the first of the year. We are working weekends, night shifts, and holidays. We are providing help around the clock. Personally, I don't think COVID is going away on January 1, 2021. My expectation is that it will be extended until our surge numbers start to level off and start decreasing, which is not going to happen anytime soon, unless people change what they're doing in the community.”

Patti also says, as our community heads into what is usually a week of large family gatherings and thanksgiving, “If I could talk to the public I would tell them we need to follow the guidelines that our state health department has outlined for us. We need to wear masks, we need to wash our hands, it's so important because it makes a difference. We know the prevalence of COVID in our community is so much higher than it's been, and we really do you need to take specific precautions to give our community and hospitals some breathing room.”

With so much of her previous bedside experience in the emergency room, Patti anticipates working some shifts there also and wants to remind everyone to not ignore medical emergencies and seek lifesaving care they need. “We are still taking care of our trauma patients, our stroke patients, our cardiac patients, and we're making room for them. We can't shut the front door and so it's all hands on deck.”

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