DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — Nurses and doctors at Penn State Hershey Medical Center are sharing their experiences working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The healthcare workers trained to fight the virus at the Medical Center are part of a unique team, called the Special Pathogens Team. And like the name implies, it's a special group.
"We have become a family on the on the special pathogens team," Dr. Fahad Khalid, Chief of Division of Hospital Medicine, said. "We watch out for each other, we make sure we're getting breaks."
The team is made up of volunteers who have been training for several years in the event of an outbreak of a unique pathogen, like the coronavirus.
Up against quite possibly one of the most challenging tasks of their careers, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic comes with a lot of added safety precautions they all have to remember.
"We wear our masks non-stop, we are always washing our hands all the time whether we're in a room or not in a room," Martha Jansen, nurse and member of the Special Pathogens Team, said. "When we put our things on we're doing multiple layers and then when it's time for us to come out of the room, there's a very rigorous and specific steps we take to make sure that whatever bacteria or virus that is inside the room does not exit the room."
And though Penn State Hershey Medical Center said it's not worried about the amount of PPE it has at this time, the unpredictable supply chain remains a big concern.
"We're all pulling for the same limited resources and that has made it incredibly hard to find even simple things that you might not worry about like an alcohol swab," Kimberly Pierre, Coordinator of Highly Infectious Disease Preparedness, said. "I mean every single item that you can think of, we need to keep an eye on it."
But perhaps the most difficult part of these heroes jobs is seeing the emotional toll it has on the patient, especially since visitors aren't allowed at this time.
"So not only do we have to be the medical provider for these patients, we have to be the care system and the support system as well," Dr. Khalid said. "So I think, ya know, seeing our patients struggle through that aspect of it has been the hardest part of my job."
So far 77 COVID-19 patients at Penn State Hershey Medical Center have been successfully discharged. Experts there are anticipating a second wave of COVID-19 patients in the fall, which, they said, they'll be prepared for.