Eventide Jamestown staff discuss care during the pandemic
Dealing with the pandemic drew the Eventide Jamestown team closer together, said Doug Panchot, executive director.
Editor's note: This story is part of the 2021 "Essential to Jamestown" special edition of The Jamestown Sun. The annual Progress Edition features stories on essential workers, agencies and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ashley Wentland, director of nursing at Eventide Jamestown nursing home, described being in charge of the most vulnerable population during the coronavirus pandemic as “challenging and humbling.”
“Working with this population and not only the scare from them with their health but also the fear of when they’ll be able to see their family again,” she said. “Or if they’ll be able to see their family again, I think was kind of the big one. And then as a leader, I guess, the other part was finding ways and words of encouragement for your staff that are working extra hours, doing all these extra things because of everybody being out with COVID when it’s one of the worst situations and there is little encouragement to be had.”
Eventide Jamestown saw its first resident case in July, said Doug Panchot, executive director. But cases didn’t really impact the facility until October and November when Stutsman County saw a surge of them, he said.
Wentland said the nursing home implemented a number of measures such as face masks and shields, social distancing, signage and keeping residents in their rooms as much as possible. Technology was key to help keep residents connected to their loved ones, Panchot said.
Stressful for staff, difficult for residents
It was stressful for nursing and CNA staff during the surge, said Lori Martin, a licensed practical nurse. Once the cases started, a lot of the residents got COVID-19 at the same time, she said.
“And then staff was out with it probably at the same time too so besides the fact that you had a short staff you had a lot more sick people to take care of,” she said. “And it was scary for them (the residents) emotionally, it was difficult for them not knowing what the outcome was going to be …”
She said it was very frightening for the residents to learn they had COVID-19. They also couldn’t have visitors or family so it “pretty much depended on the staff to try to keep their spirits up and offer them encouragement.”
“Extremely lonely and scary,” she said. “And I think the loneliness part was increased due to all their fear of just not knowing.”
For example, a resident might have a roommate who was gone one day, whether that roommate was discharged or passed away, she said.
“I think wearing the protective face gear was really difficult for them too,” Martin said. “One, because they couldn’t recognize who was who a lot of times. Two, the confused residents were kind of more confused,” she said and it was more difficult at times to communicate with people wearing face masks.
Panchot said one step taken to alleviate that was to have consistent staff on the wings in the nursing home.
“It was challenging but yet in the same breath … it really pulls people together and gives a heightened sense of team, of purpose,” he said. “But yet in the same breath, it’s really hard for those residents and those family members too. And I’m just glad that we’re beyond those days.”
Eventide is licensed for 108 residents, Panchot said. No staff left during the pandemic due to fears of contracting COVID-19, he said.
“A lot of the staff tried to keep themselves as isolated as possible knowing we were high risk for our residents we tried to stay as safe as we possibly could for their sake,” Martin said.
Kylie Tripp, a registered nurse, said it was difficult for the staff.
“I think the hardest part was seeing that our residents were getting COVID is just not knowing what could happen with them,” she said. “Every day you came to work it was honestly something different. Some days they could be getting better, the next it could be different too. But I think the one benefit being the residents that did have it is that a lot of us workers are like family with them too so they were surrounded by us helping them.”
She said in the beginning, it was scary for staff to go to work where there were residents with COVID-19 because they didn’t want to bring it home to their own families.
“I think that was one of the most difficult things for us too, is that while we were working with those residents with COVID we couldn’t go see our (extended) families either,” she said.
Panchot said the families appreciated the care that their loved ones received during the pandemic. At this writing, in mid-March, there had been 883 resident deaths in long-term care facilities, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Visitation had also opened up at the nursing home in early March, said Kala Frank, director of life enrichment. Guests were allowed up to two-hour visits in private rooms or in spaces made available to residents for private visits. Screenings of visitors and masking and social distancing were still required at that time.
Also resuming were communal dining and some activities, Frank said.
“To just see and hear the life back in the facility just feels so good compared to how it has felt in those prior months,” she said.
Panchot said dealing with the pandemic drew the Eventide Jamestown team closer together.
“I couldn’t be prouder of each person that’s a part of our Eventide family here in Jamestown and what’s been done and how we’ve worked so hard to try to keep people as safe as possible,” he said.
Panchot also noted that the support received from family members and others also made a difference. Churches, schools and other organizations provided support. Cards, valentines and food are just some of the examples of that support.
“It’s good to be a part of such a supportive community, supportive family members and our employees are absolutely fabulous,” he said.
Panchot is hopeful as visitation opened up.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do here in the next little month or so as well in trying to get back to some sense of normalcy with it but just extremely blessed to be part of this community and a part of this team and I think all of our employees feel that same way,” he said. “It’s been a tough road but one that we’ve seen a lot of encouragement and support with as well.”