Helping patients get back on their feet from the neurological ICU
While emergency rooms and ICUs across the country are preoccupied with COVID-19, medical staff are still treating other injuries and diseases. One such ward is the Neuro ICU, the intensive care unit focused on treating patients who suffer from severe brain injuries, stroke, brain tumors, and other similar maladies.
Anything that impacts the brain and nerves can cause serious mobility problems for anyone who experiences such an event. For most patients with neurological trauma, physical therapy must begin as soon as possible, and physical therapist assistants like Taylor J play a critical role in helping these patients regain their movement.
Working in any ICU is a particularly difficult challenge during the coronavirus pandemic, but Taylor finds ways every day to excel and serve. Because of her strength and selfless bravery, we selected Taylor as one of our honored Heroes in Healthcare.
Physical Therapist Assistant (Neuro ICU / Surgical ICU) in Murray, UT
2018 Graduate – Provo College
What are the typical responsibilities for someone in your position?
My responsibilities in the acute care setting focus mainly on helping patients who are critically and acutely ill and those that require increased assistance to perform basic mobility tasks.
My team and I are responsible for teaching transfers, gait, and general mobility to patients who are currently unable to perform them on their own.
With that in mind, what does a typical day look like for you?
My days start with a thorough chart review of my patients, specifically their precautions and anything that might prevent them from receiving therapy that day. After coordinating with nurses and doctors, I start my day of treating my patients.
We focus on our most intensive patients first—the ones who require more assistance. Then we work our way to the more functional patients to continue their ongoing therapy programs.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed that routine?
The pandemic initially decreased our patient load for my team. This even caused some concerns about getting enough hours in at work.
Now that COVID-19 cases have increased in Utah, lack of patients is no longer a concern. We are much busier, and any concern now is for the safety of the staff and our families at home.
Knowing and understanding the purpose and proper use of PPE has given me confidence, and I feel it every time I don my gear each shift. Knowing that I’m doing what I can and following my training is what I know is going to protect my patients, family and myself.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The difficulty now is making sure we are safe as healthcare professionals since we’re working in direct contact with patients. This means taking additional precautions to prevent potential transfer to other patients and our own families.
We’ve always tried to prevent the spread of germs, but this virus has created and increased awareness… not just in our department, but across the entire healthcare field.
Where do you find the inspiration to endure this difficult period?
I love the patients and my co-workers. My greatest inspiration definitely comes from them. I’ve built such strong relationships with both those I work beside and those I help with their recovery.
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?
Every day when I wake up, I try and find one positive event that I know will happen that day. Then I try to focus on that throughout the entire day, which helps prevent fear and anxiety from gaining control.
It’s easy to succumb to that fear, but I know my patients, family and friends need to see that those in the middle of all this—like me—can still be there as support.
It doesn’t mean some days aren’t hard but trying to find the good in each person and each moment has been key to enduring through this challenging time so far.
I also highly recommend taking lunches and walks outside when possible just to get out of the hospital for a mental break. Talking things out with my co-workers is also something that helps me cope. These are the best ways I know to keep composure during the really challenging moments.
Any words of advice or inspiration you’d like to share with other healthcare workers who may be coping with similar challenges?
Be kind. We are all struggling.
When your co-worker snaps or is short with you, find a way to be understanding instead of reacting. The best thing we can do right now is love each other (from a distance) and make sure we feel supported in our roles.
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 think situations like these won’t happen to you until they do.
Take advantage of your education now and learn what you can while you have the chance. And be prepared to learn more when you start working… the learning won’t (and should never) stop.
What about our non-medical readers? Any words of advice for them?
Kindness is more contagious than any virus or disease. If we can support one another through difficult times, it will make all our lives so much better.
Thank you, Taylor!
Thank you to Taylor for her hard work, inspiring words, and dedication to kindness in the face of a global pandemic. Her example is one that all healthcare workers should (and do) follow, and we know each of her patients is grateful for her spirit and for the help she provides.
We’re proud of you, Taylor! Keep up the amazing work!