Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country have had to radically alter their lives—and their livelihoods. While most have made sacrifices in one way or another, those that provide direct patient care have had unique experiences.
General surgeon Cianna Pender, MD, is on the medical staff at Archbold Memorial Hospital, part of the surgical team at Archbold Medical Group’s South Georgia Surgical Associates.
When the pandemic forced Archbold to appropriately adjust service offerings, one of the first services to be temporarily restricted at hospitals, including Archbold, was elective surgeries. Doing so substantially reduced surgical volume for all surgeons, including Pender.
“I missed operating,” said Dr. Pender. “During the height of the outbreak, our clinic was open only for emergencies and urgent cancer cases.”
As a mother of young children, navigating an unprecedented, prolonged event presented both change and concerns of safety. Dr. Pender pressed on. “Balance is always difficult. After arriving home from work, seeing so much illness and loss made me hug my kids extra tight. After changing clothes in the garage, I’d scrub my skin and wash my hands with sanitizer.”
As hospital and public health data indicate relative stability with the number of COVID-19 positive patients at the hospital and in the community, Archbold has reopened nearly all of its services through a phased “restart.”
“Now as things appear to be trending in the right direction, we are opening back up for routine care and new consults,” said Dr. Pender. “We still have a dedicated employee in the lobby providing masks to all patients and family members, screening with a few questions and checking the temperature of everyone that enters. Our lobbies have also been rearranged to provide appropriate distancing while in the waiting room.”
Understanding that some in the community may wonder about their health and safety returning to seek care at the hospital, Dr. Pender said, “Archbold has been rigidly adherent to national recommendations and our community-based epidemiologic numbers are very encouraging. We continue to take appropriate precautions and have implemented a COVID screening program for all elective cases. All employees continue to be masked in Archbold facilities and extra cleaning measures are being taken in surgical areas.”
Recognizing the threat of the virus hasn’t vanished, she noted. “There are still many unknowns on the behavior of this virus, and though nobody has all of the right answers, what we can do as individuals is use good sense and remember that our actions affect everyone else. So far, as a community, we have done a tremendous job curbing the spread and must continue to be cautious moving forward into uncharted waters. But, we should continue to physically distance, practice good hand hygiene and wear a mask in public when necessary.”
“This has been an eye opener,” Dr. Pender continued. “ Though I have not been caring exclusively for COVID patients, this pandemic has been an incredible reminder of why I went into medicine and in some ways has provided a renewal of spirit and purpose. I am so incredibly proud to be a member of this medical staff and this community. The way individuals have sacrificed and given of themselves during these unprecedented times has been inspiring. It's not just the medical staff, but everyone else that makes the hospital run that have impressed me the most. As people who never signed up to put their lives on the line to care for the sick, there was no wavering and Archbold has been able to provide continued outstanding care at all of our facilities throughout the area surge. As we restart our services, patients should feel safe coming here.”
Smiling, Dr. Pender added, “Going forward, because of my kids, I hope everyone at work is ready to listen to Moana and Frozen, as these have been my sole playlist during the pandemic.”