Local ER workers rely on teamwork to maintain morale, overcome shortages during pandemic


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — For the head of the emergency department at Riverside Regional Medical Center, a shortage of supplies is not an option.

“We are absolutely positively seeing an increase in patients with severe respiratory issues that are ending up on ventilators and ICUs,” said Dr. Gary Kavit.

The hospital got restocked this week, but Kavit knows that will be an ongoing challenge.

“Because this area is considered a hot spot, we’re supposed to be getting supplies from national sources this week.”

At Sentara Norfolk General, nurses have to protect themselves from the spread of coronavirus so they can continue to treat patients. That means having enough gloves, masks, and other gear.

“I think we’re all feeling a bit of a crunch on that, but we’ve had great community response with multiple donations,” said Lauren, an ER nurse. Nurses at Sentara identify themselves only by first name on their badges and to the media.

They say they’re getting through the challenges with teamwork and making sure they stay on top of the disease, which has already proven deadly in Hampton Roads and around the globe.

“We’re on the front lines of this right now, so it’s kind of rewarding knowing that we went into this profession for a reason,” said Shane, another nurse.

Kavit at Riverside says COVID-19 has pretty much taken over his life.

“It’s pretty much all work, 24-7, especially in my position. I’m here throughout the day, I’m fielding phone calls all night, I’m online researching options,” he said.

That’s the toll the pandemic takes even when you’re not infected. Nurses, doctors and staff are coming together to get through.

“There’s definitely some fear and anxiety that the staff are feeling, but we’ve bonded together and we have great support from our administration,” Lauren said.

Nurses say it’s the nature of the work they do and the calling that they have followed that helps keep morale high.

“It’s fulfilling to see the community and all of my coworkers step up together and really do your part for this community,” said Stephen, an ER nurse at Sentara.

That fulfillment and the challenge to stay motivated for providers will remain for the days and weeks to come. Kavit puts it in terms that everyone who lives in Hampton Roads can easily understand.

“These are just the first rain bands of the hurricane that we know is coming, and so we have to be prepared,” he said.

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