In the current COVID-19 crisis, a home visit by the nurses of VNSNY Home Care carries extra significance. First and foremost, we provide critical care to our patients. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to check on our patients’ health—including screening for signs of the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Beyond that, clinically-essential home visits are a chance to reassure patients in these uncertain times, and to educate them on how to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. Eileen B., a nurse in Staten Island, has been with VNSNY for more than 28 years. She notes that home health care nurses, therapists, and home health aides are ideally positioned to help New Yorkers through the fear and anxiety of this pandemic and keep them connected to care.
“Once they open the door, I greet them with a smile and a ‘Hello, how’s everything?’” says Eileen. “I assure them things will get better, and that we just have to take it one day at a time. We are New Yorkers—we’re resilient!”
Educating patients and their families, always a big part of home care, is even more important these days, says Eileen. “One of the reasons I chose home care nursing is that I like to do one-on-one teaching,” says Eileen. “In their homes, patients are very receptive to learning what to do for their health, whether it’s about drinking water, doing their exercises, or taking medications. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we also talk to them about precautions like hand-washing and staying away from other people, as well as what symptoms to watch for.”
Eileen’s visits are also a learning experience for her nursing colleague, Danielle C., who is doing her field training with Eileen. “Training as a home care nurse during this crisis is a unique opportunity,” says Danielle. “This is why I decided to do home care. It’s more personal, and you get to be with people one-on-one in the community. They need us right now. For some people, we are their only family, the only ones they see.”
Among other things, Danielle is absorbing how Eileen tries to lighten the mood with each patient—toilet paper is a big source of shared humor these days—and how she is always encouraging. “I’m learning a lot from Eileen’s positive vibe,” she says. “We have to stay positive, to let our patients know that we are here to help. That’s why we’re coming into their homes, and why we’re in nursing in the first place.”
While this is an especially challenging time to be a home care clinician, the lessons Danielle is learning are invaluable. “For the new generation of nurses, this is a difficult period to be training in,” Eileen acknowledges. “At the same time, though, they’re getting a real heads-up education on how to manage in a crisis.”
“To be honest, there’s no better time to be training,” adds Danielle. “If we can get through this, we can get through anything.”