Lending a helping hand

A collaborative effort is bringing personal protective equipment to the team at Rowan Medical Center

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jessica Ramey’s first and most serious concern was around protecting her patients and her team.

Ramey works in infection prevention (IP) for Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, and the coronavirus presented a new and challenging reality.

“It’s not the virus itself; it’s having the things we need to protect our people. That, to me, was the scariest part,” Ramey said. “In infection prevention, we make sure that all team members, patients and visitors are all kept safe.”

To ensure that safety in an unprecedented time, Ramey had to think outside the box.

Ramey has a friend who works in healthcare in Washington State. When the pandemic hit and hospitals found themselves struggling to find personal protective equipment, Ramey’s friend started building her own face shields. She sent Ramey the schematics she had used, and Ramey got to work. She went to the craft store and bought what she needed to construct a few prototypes. In a short time, she’d built a few new face shields by hand, and they worked.

Ramey knew she was going to need more. She also knew she would need help. She found it in a group of volunteers at Memorial Baptist Church in Kannapolis.

The church had already delivered loads of snacks to front-line medical workers at Rowan Medical Center, but they wanted to do more. Ramey sent them the schematics and the supplies she’d purchased and gave them strict guidance on how to keep their manufacturing process safe for themselves and for the healthcare workers who would receive the face shields once they were complete.

“And they’ve been cranking out face shields ever since,” Ramey said. “We tried them here at Rowan Medical Center first to make sure they were safe, and it was really a blessing for us. The face shields help protect our masks and allow us to wear those masks longer. The team really values having them.”

At first, Ramey worried that her request would create too much work for the volunteers at Memorial Baptist Church. Little did she know, the church had been discussing its mission and looking for ways to support the community for more than a year.

“We wanted to be a place that was a blessing to our community with no strings attached,” said Rev. Jason Barber, pastor at Memorial Baptist Church. “We had been talking about, through various workshops and things I’d been teaching, what we wanted to be for our city in a way that was personal, ongoing and generous. Crises fast forwarded a lot of that conversation for us.”

The church decided healthcare workers needed their help, now.

“For us, the opportunity to partner up was an answer to prayer,” Barber said. “We don’t have the knowhow that these professionals have, but we wanted to do something that would be a real benefit in this battle. To be able to support and equip those front-line workers was a huge blessing for us.”

Now, they’ve produced so many face shields that Ramey has had to tell them to pause production. But Memorial Baptist Church isn’t stopping entirely. They continue to donate snacks and drinks to Rowan Medical Center, and Ramey ensures those gifts make it to every department in the hospital.

“You would be surprised what a water and a pack of crackers can do — just to know that people care and that they’re trying to make our days a little easier,” she said.

Now, Ramey is trying to do the same for them, in whatever ways she can. For instance, when the volunteers at the church called recently with a request for Ramey’s professional opinion, she immediately agreed.

“They’re trying to open up the church and host the first two Sundays outside, and they have a really awesome plan that I’ve helped them with to ensure everyone is safe and socially distant,” Ramey said. “Now they have a little infection prevention experience.”

And Ramey can shift her focus away from personal protective equipment and on to other areas within the hospital and beyond. For instance, she now hosts calls three times a week with long-term care facilities to offer feedback and assistance on infection prevention procedures.

“Their patients are our patients. We’re one community,” Ramey said. “Nursing homes don’t typically have an IP person. Now, we can give feedback, and hopefully that has strengthened our relationship with our long-term care facilities.”

All of that may seem above and beyond, but for Ramey, it’s business as usual. It started years ago, when she first joined Rowan Medical Center and made 300 cupcakes for the nursing team. And it continues now.

“You have to be a constant to people, especially in such a time of unknown,” Ramey said. “Of course there were days I went home in tears, like everybody, but I just knew that if I was panicked, everyone was going to be panicked. I love everybody here. I think they look to me to be that answer for them, and if I don’t know something, I’m going to find out for you.”

Lend a helping hand.

You can do your part to lend a hand by making a contribution to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund). The fund provides essential resources to front-line healthcare workers so they can focus on the important work of helping people and saving lives. Join us, and make your gift today.

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