Healthy Tahoe: Local nurses share perspective on the frontline

Submitted by Barton Health
Patty Degischer and Matt Mullen

As part of the national celebration of Nurses Week 2020, we asked nurses caring for some of the community’s most vulnerable patients to give their perspective on the frontline of COVID-19, and the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale.

At the Skilled Nursing Facility inside Barton Memorial Hospital, visitation has been restricted since March to protect the fragile health of this facility’s long-term care residents.

Patty Degischer, RN, knows her patients depend on her for their health and well-being; she has been working compassionately to keep their moods uplifted, as she is some of the only human contact they have.

Matt Mullen, RN, a nurse at the Barton Medical Clinic, has been part of the team providing evaluation, testing and clinical direction for the hundreds of Lake Tahoe residents referred to this facility during a frightening time of their lives.

He is helping community members as they face uncertainty regarding diagnosis of COVID-19. Keeping himself and his coworkers safe is critical, and all nurses are following in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale and her historic changes to sanitization processes.

The viewpoint shared by Degischer and Mullen signals the courage, caring, and empathy of nurses around the globe that are rising to the call and responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Healthy Tahoe: What inspired you to become a nurse?

Matt Mullen, RN: When I was in high school, my grandfather became ill and I moved in with him to care for him in hias final days. From this experience I developed an appreciation for the therapeutic relationship between patients and nurses, and decided to make nursing my career.

HT: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of the nursing profession?

Patty Degischer, RN: Knowing that I provided the best possible holistic care to my patient is what I find rewarding. Going to the hospital and not knowing what is going to happen can be quite scary, and I am happy to be able to ease the fears of my patients.

HT: How do you handle the stress of the job?

PD: I get to go home to my loving family after every shift. Enjoying the outdoors in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, as well as squeezing in a vacation when possible always helps!

HT: What keeps you coming back to the frontline of the COVID-19 response, and facing current risks of the pandemic?

MM: I am honored to be a part of it. I feel deeply for the nurses in New York and elsewhere who are facing more severe circumstances than we are, my thoughts are with them all and I pray that they make it through this pandemic safely.

HT: National Nurses Week ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. Do you relate to her plight, and does this have any significance with COVID-19?

MM: She was a pioneer in infection control; particularly with hand washing and other hygiene measures which, through her own implementation in hospitals, was able to reduce mortality rates drastically. These same principles apply directly to the COVID-19 pandemic; we can all do our part by wearing a mask when appropriate, staying home, and washing our hands often. These practices reduce sickness and save lives.

PD: Florence Nightingale never wavered with her calling and put others first; regardless of how gruesome the situation. She dedicated herself to practicing her profession faithfully. Another significant fact is that she changed the standard of cleanliness in hospitals. I personally can relate to Florence Nightingale’s plight; dedicating myself to my career and putting my patients first. In this pandemic, keeping staff and patients safe from the virus is critical; Barton does a fantastic job of keeping the hospital sanitary.

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