The coronavirus pandemic is something the likes of which many health care workers have never seen. Yet, with COVID-19 surging across the nation, they keep rising to the occasion with determination, courage and compassion, shift after hospital shift.
Highly contagious and sometimes lethal, the novel coronavirus puts health professionals on the front lines of patient care at considerable risk of becoming infected themselves. Doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists in emergency rooms and ICUs continue to provide patients with a human touch, even while swathed in personal protective equipment.
Every hospital worker has a role to play in pushing back against COVID-19. Environmental services crews continually sanitize patient care areas for nonstop infection control. Hospital chaplains offer spiritual support to shell-shocked staff members and frightened or grieving family members.
U.S. News is proud to honor these health care heroes and countless others — both in and out of hospitals, including volunteers jumping in with both feet — for their extraordinary contributions during this unprecedented health crisis. We’ll be sharing their outstanding efforts in an ongoing new series, called U.S. News Hospital Heroes. You will meet a range of individuals in roles like these:
— Critical care ICU physicians at hospitals in hard-hit hot spots take on grim pandemic realities, show concern for fellow health care workers infected with COVID-19 and are lauded by colleagues for their patient care, empathy and support.
— Chaplains put on PPE to pray for patients dying of COVID-19 and give spiritual succor to doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and administrators who deeply appreciate their support.
— Top hospital executives take on new roles like procuring and inspecting shipments of sorely needed respirator masks for the staff.
— Pharmacists at academic medical centers make sure every critically ill patient receives intravenous infusions and medications, including patients with COVID-19 taking part in clinical trials for experimental drugs.
— Critical care nurses monitor and care for extremely ill patients on ventilators with severe pneumonia from the coronavirus who are too sick to breathe on their own. They give patients one-on-one care to stabilize and get them through the worst of their condition.
— Environmental services directors lead teams that clean and disinfect every corner of a hospital, including the “red zone” where COVID-19 patients are located. When a patient is discharged or transferred, it’s environmental service workers who decontaminate their rooms.
— Respiratory therapists work tirelessly with patients whose lungs are affected by COVID-19. Because the coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, airway suctioning and other aerosol-generating procedures put RTs at higher risk of occupationally related infection.
— Community nurses screen homeless people for COVID-19 and help them find shelter or health care depending on their individual needs.
— Emergency department nurses are often the first hospital professionals who COVID-19 patients encounter. ER nurses lead the front-line response as they triage every patient who comes through the doors.
— Physician-researchers run clinical studies in which volunteers who’ve recovered from COVID-19 can donate antibody-rich plasma and enable transfusions for severely ill patients still fighting the disease.
— Infection-control specialists share best practices on preventing the spread of the coronavirus with every hospital department — and make sure they have equipment and support to put those practices in action. These specialists educate anxious staff, patients and family members, and provide a voice of guidance and calm.
— Nurse practitioners provide holistic patient care that goes beyond treating symptoms of coronavirus infection. Whether it’s in a dedicated COVID-19 ICU or on a regular hospital unit, NPs are helping patients face the challenges of isolation, talking to them about their condition and answering questions in language patients can understand.
— Attending emergency medicine physicians take charge of overflowing ERs with dedication, innovation and creativity, making split-second decisions and providing lifesaving interventions for patients who are rapidly losing their ability to breathe.
— Staff nurses on COVID-19 units take care of patients with compassion and grace, so when someone is placed in isolation it doesn’t mean they’re alone. RNs take time to help patients connect with loved ones through FaceTime and Skype, while giving expert care to every patient, many in unstable condition, under their responsibility.
— Clinicians leave their comfort zones — their standard areas of training and practice — to volunteer where they’re needed most in the pandemic. Gastroenterologists pitch in at swamped emergency rooms and surgical nurses are redeployed from operating rooms to intensive care units, sharpening new skills as colleagues quickly bring them up to speed.
— Transporters come into contact with multiple patients throughout a hospital. A transporter’s pleasant and reassuring manner helps put patients on gurneys at ease as they’re carefully moved from one department to another for medical procedures or transfers.
— Phlebotomists work double shifts to collect blood samples from patients on every hospital unit. Because COVID-19 is so contagious, phlebotomists take extra precautions, donning and removing masks, gloves and gowns after contact with each patient they work with throughout the day. Phlebotomists often take an extra minute or two to comfort frightened patients, who are unavoidably denied visits from loved ones.
— Clinician-inventors are creating new ideas to transform patient care and increase colleagues’ safety. They’re tweaking equipment like ventilators to make them more versatile and coming up with protective devices to reduce their colleagues’ exposure. As they provide care to patients with COVID-19, these innovative professionals are simultaneously finding ways to improve it.
Health care workers are being recognized for their efforts worldwide, and rightfully so. They’re fearlessly taking on the COVID-19 pandemic — or carrying on despite their fears, including the possibility of bringing the coronavirus home to their loved ones. U.S. News is thrilled to spotlight their stories of exceptional patient care and support.
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