Shawn Carpenter, who lives in Ormond-by-the-Sea, assesses staffing levels every four hours.
When AdventHealth Palm Coast first started to treat COVID-19 patients, an elderly woman was waiting to be investigated. A nurse, wearing a mask, peeked in the window of the room to check on her, and the woman made a heart sign with her hands and mouthed, “Thank you,” through the window.
The stress and emotion of the moment overwhelmed the nurse, who, like others in health care, have worked to show their compassion and care for patients despite wearing masks.
“The nurse practically broke down,” said Shawn Carpenter, nursing administrator at the hospital. “The compassion and caring are still there.”
Carpenter, who lives in Ormond-by-the-Sea and has worked in hospitals in New York City and Miami, said AdventHealth’s leadership and staff are the best he has worked with. He spoke with the Palm Coast Observer on April 9 about the extraordinary fight against COVID-19.
Do you have enough staff to respond to COVID-19?
We’re always on top of staffing. And we’re constantly cross-training people in case we need them in other departments, and it’s monitored every four hours.
Is more being asked of nurses than usual?
Not any more than what we’ve trained for. It’s a stressful time, but we’re not demanding longer hours. We believe you need to take care of yourself, too. People are getting time off.
What is the morale like among the nursing staff?
It’s the best I’ve seen. This is the front line. We all know we’re a team, we’re a family, we’re all in this together. Yesterday, we recognized one of our techs on the floor for always being willing to go where we need her. They had a thank-you party for her.
How is life in the hospital different because of COVID-19?
The big thing of course is we stopped all visitation, and that’s hard. We’re used to dealing with not just the patients but the patients’ families. We do have exceptions, of course: Anybody end-of-life, anybody that is serious, we bring in the family. We don’t keep them from their loved ones.
We’ve acquired iPads so that any person, any family member, if they don’t have a smart phone, can connect with family and still be in touch. We have a few people using them right now; I signed out two of them last night. Our patient experience nurses go above and beyond.
In what ways have you seen the community rally behind the health care workers?
It’s been phenomenal. A few nights ago the community came to our facility and sat in the parking lot in their cars and flashed their lights and beeped the horns. That was very overwhelming for the staff. The outpouring of making masks for us, homemade masks — that mean a lot. Being a small community like the Flagler Beach-Palm Coast area, the outreach has been beyond words.
The biggest thing to help us as health care workers, is to follow the guidelines. Stay at home, social distancing, washing hands. If you stay safe, that’s less people that have to come in, and that keeps our staff safe.
What keeps you up at night in your job?
Just praying that we all stay safe. That the surge that’s predicted doesn’t appear as severe as the numbers are saying. Having said that, even if we do get a surge in our community and others, we and our sister facilities are prepared. We have everything we need.
How many beds are in use now, treating COVID-19 patients?
We have three active throughout the whole hospital.
What is it about your nurses that makes you the most proud?
We take care of patients and their families. This is a job we’re dedicated to. Every day we see heroes in the hospital.