EDITOR'S NOTE: We asked readers to nominate heroes from the community during the coronavirus crisis using our Open Source platform.
MANSFIELD — Navigating the world while undergoing infusion treatments can be scary enough. Doing so in the middle of a global pandemic is even scarier.
Luckily, for patients at OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, a team of nurses and staff with infusion services have done their best to keep those going through treatments happy and healthy.
Their incredible work inspired one anonymous person to nominate the team as a "Daily Hero," a person (or persons) who has made a positive impact on your life during the COVID-19 crisis.
"They are always upbeat and full of fun," the submission read. "They work well together and are looking out for their patients."
Suzanne Temple, administrative nurse manager of OhioHealth Infusion Services for Mansfield and Shelby hospitals, would wholeheartedly agree.
"The staff here truly have a love for our patients and what we do," Temple said. "Once anyone enters our infusion center we truly do treat them as part of our family."
Infusion services at OhioHealth cares for the oncology/hematology patient populations, Temple said. Her 19-person team administers chemotherapy, immunotherapy and all supportive services for those patients. These treatments make their patient population especially sensitive and immunocompromised, which is heightened during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, pausing critical anti-cancer or immunosuppressive therapy is not recommended even during a global pandemic. The balance of potential harms that may result from delaying or interrupting treatment versus the potential benefits of possibly preventing or delaying COVID-19 infection is very uncertain.
"Obviously with chemotherapy, patients would be at risk for the continuation or advancement of disease, so this was deemed an essential service," Temple said.
Therefore, the infusion services team has taken extra precautions when treating these vulnerable patients. Everyone is greeted with a temperature check, a face mask and a squirt of hand sanitizer. Patients waiting in the lobby are separated on opposite ends of the waiting room, and brought back as quickly as possible to a private infusion bay. The visitation policy was also changed to limit one visitor per patient.
"Everything is done to heighten the safety of every patient and visitor," Temple said.
The team has also taken extra steps to call patients the day before their treatments, letting them know what to expect before they come in in an effort to calm any anxieties. Temple noted these measures have shifted the general mood of patients from fearful to cautiously optimistic.
"The patients are feeling confident about being here and being protected, and about their nurses continuing to care for them at the highest level of care," she said.
Meanwhile, the general mood of the infusion services team has been one of resiliency. At a time when the emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers is being tested, Temple said her team has supported each other through evening debriefs, staff rotation to avoid burnout due to a shortage of chemotherapy-trained nurses, and leaving encouraging notes for their coworkers.
"For the month of April we've been asking each other how you turned your showers into sunshine," Temple said. "There's extreme teamwork that happens in this clinic."
What keeps her team going, Temple said, is an extreme passion among the nurses and staff for what they do. It's common to walk through the infusion center and hear laughter, or see nurses bantering with their patients and fellow staff.
The atmosphere of joy helps more than one would think.
"I have done oncology nursing for over 20 years, and I can tell you it's palpable how patients who remain upbeat and hopeful do so much better, to where they're always looking forward to their next treatment, they don't miss treatments, they talk to their nurses all the time," Temple said.
"Those with an upbeat attitude always seem to do better."