At Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, not-for-profit community hospital, Dr. Mark Mandichak oversees the care of patients in the hospital’s two COVID-19 units, which opened in March. 

“I think it’s been helpful to have the COVID units so specifically because even though it is challenging and is trying, and you are working hours and there is an element of danger, so to speak, given the coronavirus — just the camaraderie of those units has been pretty unique, and we can all rely on each other, whether it’s physician to nurse or physician to nurse’s aide,” Mandichak said. “There’s not a lot of power dynamic at Martha Jefferson to begin with, but even in those units, I would say that the power dynamic is even flatter where we realize that we’re relying on each other as staff to care for the patients but also help care for each other.”

He said the experience has been personally challenging for him, but that he has found ways to lean on others for help.

“I think the ways to mitigate that that I’ve tried to employ is certainly trying to take at least a day or two to decompress, so whether that’s on the weekend or weekday, making sure that I have a backup for myself, that can take over the roles of some of the decision-making regarding the units,” Mandichak said. “We have a smaller cohort of physicians that are part of our COVID team, making specific decisions around isolation and care within the hospital.”

 

Jennifer Downs, Martha Jefferson’s director of marketing and communications, said the hospital has taken measures to help prevent burnout in hospital workers.

“The administration has been very supportive of encouraging staff when they are not at work to really check out, do what rejuvenates them, be with their families, take time to get outside,  just go do those things that they know are stress reducing for them so that when they come back, they can feel all the more ready to handle their work situation,” Downs said.

Downs said the hospital offered a pop-up market in the cafeteria recently with all the “hot-ticket” grocery store necessities.

“We allowed our staff to just come and shop while they weren’t at work,” Downs said. “And so, again, eliminating the need for them to go to an additional store.”

Looking long-term, Downs said hospital leaders have identified proactive measures to ensure that the hospital is prepared for a potential surge in cases.

“That’s both in terms of spaces within the hospital we could utilize, as well as training staff to work in different ways than they previously had. So, a lot of those proactive plans are really in place right now that we hope we won’t have to execute, but that we have, and can go to quickly should they be needed.”

Article updated at 12:16 p.m. May 1 to clarify the status of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Click here to see the other parts of this series.