The hospital celebrates its team during health week

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and medical facilities have been stressed and stretched far beyond normal expectations and requirements to treat and care for those infected with the virus.

These demands in addition to typical operations and functions have placed our hospitals in a seemingly impossible position to continue to provide top quality care.

But these medical facilities continue to “fight the good fight” to bring back those they care for in full health.

Methodist Olive Branch Hospital recognized that the difficult journey through the pandemic to what people are now calling the “new normal” was not just about the successes of frontline doctors and nurses. Employees in logistics and supply, dietetics, physiotherapy, maintenance, they have all played a role over the past two years. The administrators held an event on Tuesday to thank all employees for the role they played.

Food, t-shirts, photos and other activities, along with generous doses of gratitude and thanks, took place on the grounds of Olive Branch Hospital.

Between the photos and the barbecue, employees shared stories about what they’ve encountered working at the hospital since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Jessica Smith of Olive Branch is a 15-year nursing veteran in her fourth year at Methodist Olive Branch in the medical surgery side of the hospital. Smith was assigned to the day surgery area during the pandemic and when that happened, her area immediately shut down during surgeries except for emergencies.

Smith said her role quickly changed to doing whatever was necessary.

“We were guarding doors and checking patients in,” Smith said. “We were transporting patients, helping on floors, doing all sorts of other extra work instead of doing same-day surgeries and admissions.”

It was an assignment that Smith said she didn’t hesitate to do, but one of its tasks was particularly heartbreaking for her.

Jessica Smith, surgical nurse at Methodist Olive Branch Hospital. (Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Instagram)

If you were watching the doors and the patients were coming in, you had to send the family members away,” Smith said. “It was heartbreaking not being able to admit the family with the patient. So you had to deal with the families of the patient instead of the patient, and making sure they got updates and could communicate with each other.

Now that families can return to the hospital, Smith said it’s a huge benefit for patient care because they can learn things about the patient that the nurse wouldn’t otherwise pick up on.

“We may not see that a patient is confused, but the family member may perceive some confusion because it’s not normal for them,” Smith said. “It was a very big struggle when we weren’t able to have the families of patients or support people here. I have always relied on families as a big part of the patient.

One area most don’t normally think about, but which remains vitally important, is that of logistics and supplies. Someone has to be responsible for getting personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, masks, face shields, and surgical and isolation gowns, and at Methodist Olive Branch, Tamara Watkins is part of the staff responsible for these tasks.

Watkins quickly saw the volume of materials falling like an avalanche towards its supply area.

“It was a big change, where we used to see a volume of maybe 10 to 20 boxes a day per truck, it went to pallets of boxes of PPE, like surgical gowns, isolation gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and everything,” Watkins said. “It changed a lot and it turned into longer hours so we could make sure we got it all out.”

Watkins said his department started using gloves when they came into contact with different boxes in different areas for safety and cleanliness. But the onslaught of necessary supplies meant getting extra space to store everything.

Tamara Watkins, logistics specialist at Olive Branch Methodist Hospital. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

“We had to get new storage areas because we were running out of space,” Watkins said. “They rented a few storage containers on site which we had to park here in the parking lot.”

With the easing of restrictions, there is now a new challenge. Supplies are still needed, but supply chain issues mean products are not arriving as quickly as before.

We are unable to obtain these items as they are currently out of stock,” Watkins said. “There are a lot of items that are really needed, but we can’t get a lot of them. We try to make sure the floors have what they need, but at the same time, with the way everything is going, we can just ration portions of items.

Both Smith and Watkins say they are grateful that the hospital has recognized the extra work they have put in during the pandemic.

“I can’t do my job without a ton of support,” Smith said. “It’s huge, even down to the administration. We really can’t function without them too. Laboratory and dietetics, physiotherapy, it is imperative that we have everyone here.

“Just knowing that everyone here plays an important role makes your job more fulfilling,” Watkins added. “It’s a warm feeling to know that you are celebrated and appreciated.”

Events were planned for all shifts at the hospital, including food trucks and a “blessing of hands” as a token of “thank you” and to show that Olive Branch Methodist Hospital is “#MOBStrong.”

Corky’s barbecue was part of the food offered to employees at Tuesday’s picnic. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
I Love My #MLHFam t-shirts provided at Tuesday’s picnic. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
#MOBSTRONG banner at Olive Branch Methodist Hospital. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Pictured: Employees frame themselves for photos at the Olive Branch Methodist Hospital Health Week Picnic. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

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