Virtual forum enlightens others to be innovative and vigilant to stay safe during COVID-19

Nursing Alumni Council seminar

Virtual forum enlightens others to be innovative and vigilant to stay safe during COVID-19

F ifteen individuals participated in a virtual seminar titled “Medical Professionals and Life During COVID-19” in September. The event, hosted by the Georgia College Nursing Alumni Council, was conducted by a panel of health care leaders, who shared their thoughts on staying protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Parker Tarr, ’05, is a full-time lecturer of nursing, including lab and clinical, at Belmont University and secretary of the Georgia College Nursing Alumni Council. She chose to participate in this forum, because COVID-19 has greatly impacted the health care environment. 

Sarah Tarr
Sarah Tarr

“As health care professionals, we are all in this together,” she said. “It’s important we have opportunities to share our experiences, learn from one another and reflect on the challenges and successes we’ve encountered during this time.”

The discussion is vital for health care workers as they experience COVID-19 in direct and unique ways. 

“As those on the front lines of care, we have a responsibility to remain educated about COVID-19 to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said Tarr. “Health care professionals are overwhelmed, overworked and exhausted from this experience, and it’s far from over.” 

Besides caring for patients and families, health care professionals have a responsibility to care for themselves.

“Allowing ourselves opportunities to reflect, to express our feelings and our experiences is essential to our ability to care for ourselves and to identify positive things that have come from this difficult time,” she said. 

“Teamwork is the most important thing. You cannot operate in a silo and survive. Each person is gifted with talents and skills, and when you put those talents and skills together as one team, you will be successful.”
– Sondi Traylor Fiegel

Seminar participants addressed measures that have been implemented to support nurses who’ve been directly impacted by COVID-19 deaths of patients or family/friends. These include offering support through chaplaincy programs, counseling services and other means to address their spiritual and emotional needs.

The forum also proved helpful for non-health care workers. Participants learned the benefits of using task forces to navigate COVID-19 issues; the use of creativity to maintain engagement of employees/students; the effectiveness of infection control measures such as masks, distancing and screenings; the value of teamwork, transparency and the care of oneself and others; as well as the significance of continuing to maintain policies and protocols. One example presented was Georgia College’s use of social media, videos and personal phone calls from faculty and staff to engage students and maintain student enrollment and engagement during the pandemic.

Tarr is pleased with the creativity used by others during this time.

“As we move through this pandemic, it’s important we allow ourselves space and opportunities to share not only our experiences,” she said, “but, also the creative strategies we’ve employed to maintain our safety and the safety of others, while continuing to provide the highest-quality nursing care.” 

Sondi Traylor Fiegel
Sondi Traylor Fiegel

Sondi Traylor Fiegel, ’01, director of Patient Care for the Methodist Medical Group and vice president of the Georgia College Nursing Alumni Council, feels it’s important to share what’s happening on the COVID-19 frontlines and the effects the pandemic has on nursing and health care. 

“This is an unprecedented time we’re living in,” she said. “Perhaps those in attendance learned something that will help them down the road when faced with something similar.”

Fiegel feels that working as a team is the key to successfully getting through a crisis.

“Teamwork is the most important thing,” she said. “You cannot operate in a silo and survive. Each person is gifted with talents and skills, and when you put those talents and skills together as one team, you will be successful.”

During the COVID crisis, Fiegel collaborated with nurse educators, the registration team, staff nurses, facility workers and others to open a testing site to serve the community surrounding one of the hospitals.

“We were able to conduct 200 tests in a four-hour period,” she said. “This team met weekly to discuss what was and wasn’t working well, make adjustments and provide a successful and much needed service to the community during the four months that the testing site was open.”

Dr. Sheri Noviello, dean of the College of Health Sciences, feels it’s a good idea to make new connections with other nurses and maintain existing relationships through forums such as this one.

“Participating in events like this is probably even more important today, since we’ve been social distancing,” she said. “Nurses need support from other nurses and to know that they are not in this pandemic alone. Many individuals feel isolated during this time and talking about the challenges and the triumphs is therapeutic.”

Noviello deems the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the toughest professional challenges for everyone. She knows that being flexible and creative are key to surviving this pandemic.

“Not knowing what may happen from one moment to the next iterates the need to try to be a little more patient with others and understand we are all doing our best in these uncertain times,” Noviello said. “Kindness goes a long way.”