Salute Our Heroes: ER staff come closer together during COVID year

Salute Our Heroes: TUKHS St. Francis ER Staff
Updated: Jul. 5, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Emergency Room doctors and nurses at the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus are on high alert at all times, and the COVID-19 pandemic heightened their senses.

Teamwork makes the dream work. That slogan is in full effect, 24/7 in the TUKHS St. Francis emergency room. Director of the ER Brigette Cowan said communication is key especially through the COVID year.

“Our team has been able to recoup a little bit although it takes a lot for them to take care of the patients’ bedside and it’s just been a very hard year,” she said.

Parker Jones started as a tech in 2017 for St. Francis before graduating from Washburn University. He said he made the move to the ER for the adrenaline rush and not being able to perform his best when sitting down.

“It looks like chaos because we are scrambled but amongst that scramble, it is an organized mess so to speak,” he said.

It was only a few days into his new job when he saw the impact of COVID in the ER. Someone came in saying they were in an airport, had a cough and shortness of breath.

Jones had to put on a powered air-purifying respirator suit, also known as PAPR, and ran into the room -- helping any way he could for the hour-and-a-half he was there.

“My teammates were running around and gathering my items. Helping pull my meds and giving me my meds and they really came through for me so I didn’t have to dawn all my PPE and then re-put it back on,” he said. “They really helped make that transition easy and take burdens off my shoulders a little.”

A patient’s needs vary from physical assistance to asking for a warm blanket.

“They’re here for a need. We put all our stuff aside to make sure that they get what they need,” he said.

Cowan is modest saying she’s the director, that it’s not a one-person job

Cowan said, “Whether it’s snacks, food, drinks, a little token of appreciation that’s what we do here.”

It’s knowing they are all “St. Francis Strong.”

“This team down has been in so many situations that we just learned how to bring it all together and work together as a team,” said Cowan.

“It’s the pharmacists, the RAD techs, the nurses, the doctors, the techs, nursing students even, registration, even all the way down to EVS to the catering staff and everything else,” said Jones. “We’re just one huge community and I really feel like we embody that and push that hard. So I do feel like we’re one big family here and we are St. Francis Strong.”

Cowan said getting the resources when TUKHS partnered with St. Francis has been huge for them.

They both say to come right away if you think anything may be wrong. It’s always open.

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