COVID-19: News, Information, Resources, & Opportunities to Support

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Natalie Ball, Nu’14, GNu’16

“My name is Natalie Ball, and I am working as Family Nurse Practitioner in a federally qualified, community health center (FQHC) in Norwalk, Connecticut with the organization the Community Health Center, Inc. As a primary care, patient-centered medical home, we serve a diverse patient population that suffers from multiple medical and behavioral health comorbidities.

We find ourselves fighting COVID-19 from a physical, mental and public health standpoint. Although we are used to serving a high volume of patients at an FQHC, we are experiencing a level of stress we have never felt before. Thankfully, my organization has been quick to respond to the crisis by creating telehealth visits to reach out to our chronic patients, both medical and behavioral, to ensure their conditions are properly managed from a safe, secure location. While we are trying to keep our must vulnerable patients safe and at home, we are keeping our doors open to all COVID-19 concerns. We have been testing our patients in our clinic and via drive through testing outside the clinic doors. We have also stayed open to all other urgent walk-in visits (as we know the difficulty in discerning symptoms between COVID-19, flu, allergies, etc., as they have been ever-changing since the global spread). We never really know who (or what) is going to walk through our open door, putting us on the front lines of this battle, potentially exposing us to the virus daily, without knowing, and without any gear. I have had a confirmed case of COVID-19. Yes, I am afraid.  While these times are scary and stressful, I feel it is my obligation to step up to the challenge in fighting COVID-19 on all fronts.  My passion and duty as a Nurse Practitioner is to keep my patients safe and healthy, physically and emotionally.

My deepest concern is not my own health but the health of my beloved patients, whom are the most vulnerable to the severe COVID-19 complications, as they suffer from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, pulmonary disease, heart disease, substance use disorders, and mental health illnesses. The elderly and the vulnerable are those I work hard for every day to ensure their health and safety; I continue to educate the young and healthy to stay home to protect them. It has been an important part of our work to reinforce that we are in this together as a community, to flatten the curve, and keep our ER/hospital burden to a minimum.

[Furthermore, with most patients suffering from multiple social determinants of health, their access to resources are low, and their burden to provide for their families even more stressed. On a public health level, we are deeply concerned by the repercussions COVID-19 will have on the overall wellbeing of our patients and their families. We must continue to find ways to support them during this time.]

Our team is made up of passionate, dedicated, and hardworking professionals who come to work daily putting their own health at risk. We are here for our community, and we are working hard to protect them. We educate our patients to help keep us stay safe by staying home, calling the clinic before coming in, and using our new telehealth option.

This is a public health, community health crisis. We are a community health center and this is a pandemic that calls for community and solidarity. As long as there is a fight, we will continue to fight it, and we will not stop until we can ensure the health and safety of all of our patients and their families.”

This article was originally published on Medscape.com

To submit your own story, visit: www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.