'This is what we signed up for as nurses': Bristol-Burlington Health District nurses step up to help with COVID-19 pandemic

Published on Thursday, 26 March 2020 20:07


The moment the nurses, health aides and dental hygienists of the Bristol-Burlington Health District knew they were needed, they stepped up to help with the coronavirus outbreak that the Bristol area, along with the nation, is facing.

“I 100% think that’s part of being a nurse,” said Tracy Mitchell, a nurse with the health district. “You step up and you help.”

The health district nurses have teamed up with Bristol Hospital to test patients for COVID-19 at the hospital’s outdoor testing station. The site tested another 75 patients on Thursday. In total, 733 patients have given swabs at the testing site.

According to data released by the state Thursday, two Bristol residents have tested positive for COVID-19; one Plainville resident has tested positive; eight Southington residents have tested positive; and one Plymouth resident has tested positive.

Nurses have also helped by screening patients and employees who enter the hospital, checking their temperature and asking whether they’ve experienced a cough, shortness of breath or have been exposed to anyone with the virus.

“Bristol Hospital needs us, and we’re here to help the community,” Mitchell said, wearing a protective mask, gown, gloves and other personal protective equipment.

“Everybody goes into action when they’re a nurse,” said Nancy LaMonica, director of clinical excellence at the hospital. “They took on this partnership right away.”

Since March 13, nurses of the health district and Bristol Hospital staff have worked to not only test patients who may have COVID-19, but to also help them understand the process and ease their anxiety.

“Part of our job is to decrease anxiety,” said Heather Machado, director of patient and customer relations.

“This is what we signed up for as nurses,” Mitchell said. “That’s our biggest pledge as a nurse.”

During sudden rushes, while cars line up to await testing, Mitchell said she and other nurses approach patients in line to prescreen them to make sure they have everything they need to get a test - a note from a doctor and identification - to make sure they’re not waiting around just to be turned away.

The entire operation has been a team effort. LaMonica, whose office at the hospital overlooks the testing station off of Queen Street, will drop everything she’s doing, put on her person protective equipment and help process patients at the site when needed.

“We’re in this together,” LaMonica said.

Everyone has contributed, including the security and police officers at the testing site.

“They’re here when we open and they’re here when we close,” LaMonica said.

One thing about health care workers that’s not always discussed enough is the impact their job has on them and their families, LaMonica said. While many in the country and world are grappling to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and the effect it has had on everyday life, health care workers face the same challenges while having to go out every day and deal with the pandemic.

“Their families are frightened,” LaMonica said. “There’s a lot of isolation that goes on with health care workers.”

Marco Palmieri, director of the health district, has done everything possible to make sure the nurses have what they need as they help deal with this outbreak, even if it’s as simple as a jacket or sweatshirt to keep them warm on colder days.

“Anything we need, we just ask,” Mitchell said.

The hospital has also been accommodating.

“We’ve been given what we need and what we’ve asked for,” Mitchell added.

Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or jmuszynski@bristolpress.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News on Thursday, 26 March 2020 20:07. Updated: Thursday, 26 March 2020 20:10.