Serving Patients with Faith and Fearlessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The problems surrounding COVID-19 have weighed heavily on our healthcare workers. It can be extremely difficult and frustrating for many of them. Every day, they must witness the harsh consequences of this pandemic, while many people around the world may still refuse to take the necessary precautions to avoid this terrible disease.
For physical therapist assistants like Kourtnee Coleman Arens, this frustration hits close to home, as all her patients are considered “especially high risk” for the coronavirus.
Despite the risks and frustrations, however, Kourtnee (like so many other healthcare professionals on the front lines) dons her scrubs each day and gives her all to her patients. Her strength lies in a combination of personal faith and fearlessness and, for that reason, we selected Kourtnee as one of our honored Heroes in Healthcare.
Kourtnee Coleman Arens
Physical Therapist Assistant in Lehi, Utah
2017 Graduate – Provo College
What are the typical responsibilities for someone in your position?
My job is to carry out individualized treatments under the direction of a supervising Physical Therapist. I assess patient response through goals and standardized tests, and then I provide interventions that will promote a safe discharge to home, assisted living, or long-term care.
I also document treatment encounters, attend meetings as needed, and participate in continuing education courses.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to help improve the quality of life for the many patients we see. I also appreciate those I work with who are just as passionate about this field. We genuinely love to help others, and I get to see so many acts of kindness and love outside of our typical job descriptions.
It’s really neat!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Upon arriving to work, I’m given a schedule of patients who each have a certain amount of minutes (or treatment time). There’s some flexibility with their minutes, depending on insurance and what they need.
I like to take time to review their previous therapy notes and goals set by the supervising PT. I then make plans for what treatment interventions will help them to meet the established goals. Treatments vary quite a bit and each day looks different.
It’s common for me to do concurrent and group treatments (seeing more than one patient at a time) during the day.
And finally, I document my treatments—either throughout the day or after seeing all of my patients.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed that routine?
Quite a few additional steps have been added to our daily routines.
As employees, we’re required to check our temperature each day upon arriving to work. We also complete a quick health questionnaire, and we’re only able to come in if we and everyone in our home is healthy. We’re also required to wear a mask at all times. We continue to practice good hygiene by washing our hands frequently and cleaning equipment before and after use with each patient.
Another big change to my program is that we’re not allowed to give concurrent or group treatment at this time. Activities have been discontinued and visitors are not allowed in the building.
We’ve always been frequently exposed to infectious illness and disease, and our directors continue to work hard to ensure we are prepared and protected. This has not changed, and we will continue to be extremely cautious when working with individuals who are sick.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
All of our patients are immunocompromised and are considered high-risk which is a great concern.
It’s been challenging to see people (outside of healthcare) not take this seriously.
It’s also been challenging for patients not to have visitors, but I’ve seen many employees teaching our geriatric patients how to navigate a phone and learn to FaceTime, which is so fun!
Where do you find the inspiration to endure this difficult period?
I find inspiration to endure this period through my faith.
I’ve also found great strength by focusing on love and choosing to look for the good, because there’s a lot of it right now. My love and concern for the wellbeing of our patients outweighs my fear.
I think most (if not all) who I work with would say the same.
The stress must be overwhelming at times. How do you find balance? What do you do to maintain your composure during stressful moments at work?
I know that it’s okay to let yourself have stressful moments. I can be frustrated, angry, sad or scared. I let myself feel those things, I take a break, and then I reset.
If I’m really struggling, it helps when I make mental lists of the things I love or appreciate.
When I get home from work, I focus on my family. I’m married to the love of my life and we have a 6-month old baby and little dog. My family means everything to me!
We go for walks, we watch movies, and we play games, which helps me to find balance.
Any words of advice or inspiration you’d like to share with other healthcare workers who may be coping with similar challenges?
You are loved, admired and so appreciated! Know that there are many praying for you and your families at this time. We will get through this together!
There are thousands of men and women who are studying to become medical professionals while watching all of this unfold. What would you say to them?
You can do hard things! Healthcare is not an easy field, but it is beyond rewarding.
What about our non-medical readers? Any words of advice for them?
Please stay home! That is the best thing you can do right now, not only for yourself but for everyone else.
Look for ways to love and serve others—not just now, but always! You’ll find that challenging moments and times will be more bearable as you focus on others.
Choose to see the good. You can still experience happiness during difficult times.
Thank You, Kourtnee!
We wish to thank Kourtnee for her selfless and dedicated approach to a difficult and dangerous situation. Your example, just like so many other PTAs, nurses, and other healthcare workers, continues to inspire us. We hope you can soon take a break and get the well-deserved rest you’ve assuredly earned.
We’re proud of you, Kourtnee! Keep up the amazing work!