Taking action on the front lines of COVID-19

Melissa Morin’s energy is her superpower in the fight against a global pandemic

Give in honor of our nurses today

Melissa Morin doesn’t like to sit still. Over the course of her career in healthcare, that energy has been her signature, her specialty and her superpower.

She started out after high school as a volunteer with a local rescue squad in Manassas, Virginia. She spent some time as a paramedic. Then, she joined the emergency room at Novant Health Prince William Medical Center as a nursing technician. From the beginning, she was hooked.

“I got the bug. This was a fit. This was what my calling was going to be,” said Morin, now a nurse manager in the Emergency Services Department at Prince William Medical Center. “I have a lot of energy. I don’t really sit still well, and I like to fix things. When people are in crisis, they come to the hospital seeking help, and I like being part of the team that says, ‘This is what we’ve got to do to fix you.’”

Solving those problems has become more difficult in recent weeks, as the COVID-19 crisis has taken hold in Manassas and surrounding communities.

“It’s been a challenge only because these are uncharted waters. We’ve not had to deal with anything on this scale,” she said.

But Morin and her team have risen to the challenge from day one.

“In the early days, we walked the unit, figuring out what we would need if we had a huge surge of patients,” Morin said. “We started pre-planning at the very beginning.”

Those walks through the unit continue even now, along with regular meetings to share updates, to ask about needs and to solicit new ideas from the team to streamline processes or operations.

“We want to hear what our team members have to say,” Morin said. “We try very hard to get them involved, and everyone from charge nurses to technicians are sending us emails and leaving notes with ideas about what we could try. Some things work really well, and if they don’t, we try something else.”

They’re all vested in the work because they understand the role the emergency department plays in the health of the rest of the hospital.

“We are the line of defense to hold infections from getting upstairs to the rest of the facility, or from going home to the rest of your family,” Morin said. “We have places to have you shower before you leave. We’re telling people to bring an extra pair of shoes — anything they need to feel comfortable to go home.”

The community has done its part, too, Morin said.

“Every day we have food. There are people who are coming to the door of the hospital giving us boxes of unopened gloves,” she said. “Our community really has rallied around us on this.”

There have been other wins for the team, like the patient who was on a ventilator for 33 days and recovered.

“He was high-fiving people on his way out the door, thanking people for saving his life,” Morin said. “He was one of our great success stories.”

Those moments help with morale and positivity, which is one of Morin’s strengths. But she acknowledges that’s been hard in the midst of COVID-19.

“I am pretty well known to be the positive, optimistic kind of person. You throw in that extra spice of an international pandemic, and it definitely gives you a challenge. But you’ve got to stay positive,” Morin said. “There are some days that are more of a challenge than others, but I have a phenomenal team of assistant nurse managers, and we take it as a group approach.”

That’s especially important on the difficult days. The emergency room has implemented a no-visitation policy, which holds true no matter why you have to visit the hospital. People are still having heart attacks or other life-ending or life-altering diseases, and Morin said it’s been hard to tell families that they will be limited in how they say goodbye.

“There are people whose families are afraid to come into the facility because of COVID or aren’t able to get to us because public transportation’s not running,” Morin said. “We do have patients who pass away. Nobody should have to die by themselves, but it does happen, and it’s happened more frequently than I would like.”

Slowly, the hospital is getting back to normal, as the world around Prince William Medical Center reopens, Morin said. Throughout that process, one thing will remain the same.

“Taking care of patients will not change regardless of what the influences are around it, and we do a really good job of it here,” Morin said. “The nursing staff is fantastic. Our senior executive team is supportive, and our community deserves to have the best care.”

Just as our healthcare workers are giving us the most remarkable care, we need to ensure they have the resources they need now.

You can help, with a gift to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund).

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