Blog
May 11
Guest Blog: Nurses at Saratoga Hospital

Ann Friedman with The Daily Gazette interviewed four of our nurses in honor of National Nurses Week. The piece was published on May 2, 2021.

For nurses at Saratoga Hospital, it didn't matter whether they were new to the profession or nearly 15 years on the job as the COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge they had never seen before. 

"There was so much unknown for everyone," said Kaitlyn Woods, RN, a three-year clinical nurse on Saratoga Hospital's Intensive Care Unit. "My director met with us every day to update us on what was happening, but as a newer nurse, you don't know what you're about to get into."

The same thing was true for Woods' colleague, Mara Luh, RN, BSN, CMSRN, a 14-year nurse who works in the Cardiac/Renal/Medical Surgical Unit at Saratoga Hospital. "Everyone was so new," Luh said. "The first thing the hospital did was provide a signup sheet for childcare and ask who could pick up extra shifts for those who had kids or needed extra time off. It really was a team effort."

Though Luh had a preeschooler and first grader at home, she was able to continue to treat patients while also assisting on other units during her regular night shift at the hospital. "Whenever you were done with your work, you went to other floors to find out how you could help," she said. "Everyone chipped in to take care of patients and each other."

It was that teamwork that kept Luh and Woods going during the height of the pandemic.

"Since helping out on different units, I've come to have a whole new family of coworkers," Luh said. "We're used to taking care of sick patients so being at work felt more normal than being at home since we were doing the same thing we always did. Our patients, on the other hand, didn't have anyone there with them, so being able to be there during those tough moments was both heartbreaking and a privilege." 

Like Luh, Woods appreciated going to work during the pandemic. "As scary as it was, it was scarier to be at home watching the news," she said. "Being at work helped keep my mind off of it and I was able to just focus on taking care of patients." 

"Nothing short of a miracle"

Luh said the COVID-19 pandemic has made her more grateful to be a nurse. "We're all there to take care of patients and getting to help out more during the pandemic on different floors and units has given me a greater ability to help others," she said. "My unit has always had a team attitude, but I've felt this more throughout the entire hospital during all of this."

Medical Surgical Unit Clinical Coordinator Kelly Jo Jarosz also said she's incredibly appreciative of the staff at Saratoga Hospital. "From the top down, the collaborative efforts that have happened at the hospital since the pandemic began are nothing short of a miracle," she said. "Everyone listens to each other and it makes me proud to be a nurse at Saratoga Hospital."

For Woods, she's hopeful that the staff and community, who donated countless supplies and food to Saratoga Hospital, will come out of the pandemic stronger. "We've all been through this together and we'll always remember this time and how we helped each other," she said. "We stepped up to take more patients and we'll come out of this stronger, because we've made it through some of the darkest times."

The vaccine, according to Woods, is the light at the end of the tunnel. "In order to end the pandemic, people need to be vaccinated," she said. "I understand some people have had reactions to the vaccine, but it's better to have a reaction from the vaccine than to get COVID."

Saratoga Hospital Emergency Department Clinical Coordinator Aric Butts, RN, BSN, said patients who are coming in with severe COVID-19 symptoms have not been vaccinated and those who have mild symptoms have been inoculated. 

"Those who are still getting super sick have not gotten their vaccine, so it's important to get the vaccine so you won't get as sick," he said. "Do your research and make a decision that's right for you, not based on something that someone has said to you about the vaccine."

Up to the challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as an opportunity for Saratoga Hospital to better handle a similar unexpected situation in the future. "Our hospital has preparedness plans for things like Ebola, but we've never had to use them before and now here we are," Woods said. "If something happens again in the future, I know we'll be able to exercise these plans and we'll be better equipped to handle it."

Butts said the pandemic has provided valuable insight and information for hospital staff. "We now know what resources we can rely on and that the staff will stand strong and support each other through anything," he said. "Every single staff member—down to the housekeepers—are needed and important to keep the hospital strong, safe, and reliable for the community."

While the pandemic has put added stress on nurses, it's also enabled them to be a valuable member of their profession. "Nurses are the eyes and ears to the healthcare providers—we're the ones in direct contact with the patients," Butts said. "Though the pandemic has been stressful, it's given nurses a voice for how this care is being provided. We've been empowered."

Jarosz agrees with Butts that nurses are an important piece of the healthcare puzzle. "Nurses care and advocate for their patients, and this has given them a stronger voice to influence needed change," she said. "It's a privilege to be in healthcare during this time and work alongside nurses who have showed selflessness in their commitment to come to work every day and take care of patients."

Moving forward, Jarosz said she hopes nurses everywhere recognize that they are valuable and have made significant contributions to the healthcare field. "Nurses are resilient and that's one of the biggest things people have seen during the pandemic," she said. "We're up to these challenges while still keeping patient care at the forefront." 


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