During a hectic time in mid-March, as the Douglas County was seeing some of its first cases of COVID-19, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health nurses donned personal protective equipment, met approaching vehicles in the parking lot and swabbed patients who didn’t have a healthcare provider but needed to be tested based on their symptoms and travel history.
Public Health Nurse Nicole Parker recalls vividly one person snapping a photo of her from their vehicle as she prepared the pharyngeal swab. It was perhaps a lighter moment in a time that has been often filled with tension, especially among frontline workers in public health.
“You feel like you get to really use your skills to help people. There are a lot of people who really want to be involved in this,” Nicole said. “But at the same time, you also have this sort of anxiety about it. It’s an exciting time to be in public health, but it’s also a very stressful time.”
As all staff have redeployed in some fashion to handle the community’s COVID-19 response, Nicole describes how nurses roles shifted to answering questions and calls, setting up screenings and handling the drive-up tests first outside the Community Health Facility and in recent weeks since the standup testing site was activated during the week at the Lawrence Douglas County Fire Medical Training Center, 1941 Haskell Ave.
“Just having to roll in in your car and get tested, we don’t know the ins and outs of this disease and having to do this at the car side is unusual,” Nicole said. “They are appreciative that they can get tested and that someone is willing to test them.”
For the public, she said it’s important to see the images of healthcare workers being cautious in all the PPE gear because it reinforces the importance of following social distancing guidelines, health orders and wearing masks in public to keep the disease from spreading.
“In the long run, we want to see that this is controlled. If people say ‘oh, you are over-thinking things or you are going too far,’ that’s better than having things blow up in our face,” Nicole said. “We want to keep people healthy so that when this is all said and done and over, it will be worth it because we will be healthy individuals who can enjoy all the things that we use to have, including healthy businesses and healthy customers.”