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Hard choice for parents on the front line: work or stay home? Here’s how Novant Health is helping



When schools shut down in Stokes County, Christina Mabe was left in a difficult position.

Mabe’s job is essential: She is a registered nurse who works in the Coumadin clinic at Novant Health Salem Family Medicine, managing patients who may have suffered strokes, pulmonary embolisms or blood clots and who are now on the Coumadin blood thinner.

She loves what she does — the patient interaction more than anything — but she can’t do it from home.

Like many of our frontline healthcare workers, Mabe has two young children at home who need care.  Schools for her 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son are both closed to comply with the district’s order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Mabe thought of ways to make her available child care options work. Her husband also works outside the home, but her parents live next door. Her father owns a construction business, where her mother does the bookkeeping. They could watch the kids some if this were only for a few days, or even a week — but not every day for weeks at a time.

“What I really needed was dependable child care that I knew I would have every day,” she said.

Then, as she read through her email one day, she found another way forward.

“We get these emails every day from Novant Health with updates, and one of those emails asked us to fill out a questionnaire about what we needed during all of this,” Mabe said. “One of those questions asked about child care. I filled out the survey, and about a week after that, I got an email saying that I could sign my children up for child care at no cost.”

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, new and unprecedented challenges have been placed on healthcare workers. Spouses have lost jobs, putting their families’ livelihood on the line. For some, rent is hard to make and food is difficult to afford. The prospect of paying for supplemental child care is daunting.

“The cost definitely played a big role. When you’re used to not paying child care and then all of a sudden you don’t have anywhere for your kids to go, that’s an extra expense that we weren’t expecting,” Mabe explained.

Through the newly established Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation was able to use funds to cover those expenses and provide Mabe with quality child care services through the YMCA. Her kids play and do school work. Her son’s current passion is basketball, and he can’t get enough of it. He talks proudly about the progress he’s making with “his numbers.”

“They love it,” Mabe said. “With Novant Health Foundation offering that and covering that, that took a lot of stress off. I know I don’t have to worry about it financially, and I know my kids are somewhere safe.”

That frees Mabe to do the work she loves. She joined Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in December to get back into family medicine, which she had done for years as an LPN. She became an RN about a year ago and did some work in a hospital setting. But family medicine kept calling to her. 

“I wanted to get back in it because of the patient-nurse relationship that you establish,” said Mabe, who recently joined Salem Family Medicine “The patients that come to family medicine, they’re not like your hospital patients who you have for a couple days. We see these patients on a weekly or monthly basis — even every three months — and you get to build a relationship.”

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Mabe has seen her patients come to the clinic nervous and scared.

“We don’t see the people in person as much, and when they do come in, they wear masks. It’s for everyone’s health and safety, of course, but it is a big difference,” Mabe said.

It’s also a time when those relationships matter more than ever before. That’s why, in addition to advice like washing hands and listening to recommendations from healthcare providers, Mabe advocates for helping others as much as possible.

“If you’re going to the grocery store, drop something off for someone else so we don’t have as many people going out. Reach out to see if there’s anything you can do to help,” she said. 

One way to help Christina Mabe and other healthcare professionals like her:

Make a gift to the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund. Contributions to this fund help pay for the things our front-line workers need now so they can focus on the important work of helping patients and saving lives.

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