Recorded July 30, 2021; broadcast on Aug. 5, 2021.
Jeanee’ Kennedy is the Chief Nursing Officer for Freeman Health Systems in Joplin. For several weeks now, Joplin has had the worst COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the county.
In fact, Jeanee’ said their hospital recently had to open a third COVID unit to accommodate all of their patients.
She spoke about what she’s seeing in her community and about how this current surge is taking a toll on nurses and other frontline health workers.
Chief Nursing Officer, Freeman Health System
Jeanee' Kennedy: We still have a lot of people who are on the fence, and I still see masks when I go out not – probably not nearly as many as we need to be seeing for the amount of unvaccinated people in our community.
And I get a lot of questions about people with vaccination that were adamantly against it, but now they're hearing more things about Delta. They're hearing about what our communities are struggling with with COVID, and they are getting scared, and they are worried about their health and how COVID will affect them.
I think that the fact that we're seeing younger people, healthier people, pediatric patients that are struggling with COVID – has really opened up a lot of people's eyes.
So, I think that people that were kind of on the fence, maybe are leaning more towards vaccination at this point. We're starting to see that that fear kind of maticulate in that way, but then we've still got a lot of people that are just pretty adamantly against it.
One of our nurses – she works in the ICU, and she said, “I've seen more patients die since October than I have in my six years of my nursing career.”
And so, I think a lot of nurses are seeing more patients die, you know, on a weekend of working than what they might see in a year in a previous, pre-COVID time.
So certainly, that takes a toll on everybody. There's a lot of death, a lot of sadness, just it's very emotionally, mentally physically draining, all those things that nurses and frontline health care workers are dealing with right now.
A story that's always stuck with me, we had a patient that was dying from COVID, and this was back before we really were having any type of leniency in visitations for people with COVID.
And I remember that it was an elderly gentleman that had been married to his wife for a really long time. I don't remember how long – 40, 50 years, and he passed away from COVID, and the nurse took the wife in on the iPad and had FaceTimed her and just stood there and held the FaceTime out even after her husband had passed away.
She described that to me and just said, you know, “until till the iPad died, I stood there and just let her look at her husband.”
And it was devastating, and it really brought to light, what our nurses are dealing with, they're stepping in and being the family members for people who are not able to be there, and it's really takes a huge emotional toll on them.
And it was then that we kind of had to think about how can we have some support for our nurses in that mental and emotional way? How do we make sure that they're doing okay, because it's really hard to deal with,
I think I would say to them, that COVID is a very unpredictable virus, and the thing that worries me the most about it, when I considered whether or not I would receive my vaccine: was you don't know what type of COVID you're going to get.
You may get COVID, and you may get cold like symptoms, but you may get COVID and get a type of pneumonia, that impacts your lungs, that you're going to be on oxygen the rest of your life, or that attacks your kidneys, to where they never get back to fully functioning or you might die.
So, I think that the unpredictability of the illness and, and the fact that, you know, such a huge percentage of our physicians and people that I know and trust and would trust to take care of me and my family, all back vaccination – all feel like it's safe, all encouraged it.
Those are the things that helped me decide that vaccine was the way to go for me, I wasn't willing to roll the dice and get the bad COVID.
Copyright 2017 KBIA and The University of Missouri. Development and Design by Nathan Lawrence.