Practice Management

The pandemic experience through the eyes of APPs


 

Getting back to basics

The changes in patient care have turned into something Ms. McGrath said she appreciates. “This pandemic has really stripped away the extra fluff of medicine and brought us back to the reason why many of us have gotten into the field, because it became about the patients again,” she says. “You quickly learn your strengths and weaknesses as a provider and as a leader, and that flows into the decisions you’re making for your team and for your patients.”

Ms. Sheffer acknowledged that it is difficult to deal with patients’ family members who don’t understand that they can’t visit their sick relatives, but she said the flip side is that frontline workers become surrogate family members, an outcome she considers to be an honor.

“You step into the emotion with the family or with the patient because you’re all they have. That is a beautiful, honorable role, but it’s also tremendously emotional and sometimes devastating,” she said. “But to me, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve been able to offer in a time where we don’t even know what to do with COVID.”

Limited resources mixed with a healthy dose of fear can stifle creativity, Dr. Drane said. Right away, she noticed that despite the abundance of incentive spirometers at her hospital, they were not being utilized. She came in 2 hours early for 3 days to pass one out to every patient under investigation or COVID-positive patient and enlisted the help of her chief nursing officer, CEO, and regional medical director to get everyone on board.

Dr. Drane’s out-of-the-box thinking has enabled people to go home without oxygen 2 days earlier and cut the hospital’s length of stay by 5%. “It’s something so small, but it has such a great end reward,” she said. “I’m proud of this project because it didn’t take money; it was getting creative with what we already have.”

Renewed pride and passion

Dr. Drane is intensely proud of being an NP and working on the front lines. She sees that the pandemic has encouraged her and other APPs to expand their horizons.

“For me, it’s made me work to get dual certified,” she said. “APPs can be all-inclusive. I feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do and it’s not just a job anymore.”

Ms. McGrath is even more passionate about being a hospitalist now, as she has realized how valuable their unique skill sets are. “I think other people have also been able to realize that our ability to see the patient as a whole has allowed us to take care of this pandemic, because this disease impacts all organ systems and has a trickle-down effect that we as hospitalists are well versed to manage,” she said.

Ms. Cardin’s work involves communicating with APPs all around the country. Recently she had a phone exchange with an APP who needed to vent.

“She was weeping, and I thought she was going to say, ‘I can’t do this anymore, I need to go home,’ ” said Ms. Cardin. “Instead, she said, ‘I just want to make a difference in one of these people’s lives.’ And that is who the advanced practice providers are. They’re willing to go into those COVID units. They’re willing to be in the front lines. They are dedicated. They’re just intensely inspirational to me.”

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