When the world paused as the coronavirus hit, Jen McEachin, Lung Nodule Coordinator and Nurse Navigator at Fauquier Health, rose to the challenge of caring for lung cancer patients during the pandemic. This is the work Jen is wired to do—she comes from a household of first responders and knows the importance of her job.
“Our life hasn’t changed very much. We all get up, go to work, and come home and talk about our day,” Jen said. “Whenever things get dim in our community, we rev up. We are all kind of adrenaline junkies. This is what we’ve trained for and we’re ready.”
Jen’s husband is in law enforcement, one of her sons is a firefighter, another son is in the U.S. Coast Guard, and she’s been in nursing for 25 years. And even though they are all on the front lines responding to COVID-19, she said all of this is probably the hardest on her youngest son who is in high school. He’s missing his friends and school while the rest of the family is working in the community.
Even though COVID-19 hasn’t caused major disruptions in Jen’s home of first responders, it has created some changes at the hospital where she works. When news of the virus began to hit, Jen said the directive was to “drop everything, cancel everything and prepare for the worst.” She knew this was serious and uncharted territory. “I had absolutely never encountered anything like this before.” But the unknown didn’t deter Jen and she prepared for whatever was coming her way.
“Everyone is very in tune with what’s happening. It’s been easy to know who needs to come in and where they’re at in the program. We are taking all of the necessary precautions, too—all patients enter through one portal and they are screened as they come in. Masks are put on and patients are coming in with a positive attitude,” she said.
Now, Jen’s ready to get back to caring for her cancer patients. She says her facility is ramping up and scheduling the backlog of patients whose follow-up care was delayed. Some patients are a little reluctant to come back to the hospital, but the majority are heeding the warnings and ready to be seen by their care team at the hospital.
“Whenever things get dim in our community, we rev up. We are all kind of adrenaline junkies. This is what we’ve trained for and we’re ready.”
— Jen McEachin, Lung Nodule Coordinator & Nurse Navigator at Fauquier Health
The hospital staff is also ready to get back to business. Jen said they were supposed to be fully operational from the new cancer center by now, but those plans have temporarily been put on hold to focus on the immediate concern. “Right now, we need to be there for the community. We will move into the new facility when it makes sense.”
One thing is for certain, Jen could not be prouder of her fellow healthcare workers and the entire Fauquier Health team. “Our staff has been so wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had to reallocate resources and do a lot of cross-training. Everyone has put themselves to good use and is very conscientious of budget and time.”
Things may be a bit uncertain right now, but Jen knows we will get through this. She acknowledges that everyone has stepped up during the crisis and remained laser-focused on providing the best care to lung cancer patients no matter what happens.
Thank you for being a Patient Champion, Jen. We are proud of you and the important work you do every day for Essential Patients.
If you tell Hope White that she’s a Patient Champion, she’ll shrug it off and humbly say in a sweet Southern accent, “This is just something I signed up for—I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special.” However, the reality is that Hope is a hero who is going above and beyond caring for patients at Scott Memorial Health in Indiana every day.
Hope is a 24-year veteran at the hospital and works as a Multi Procedures Technologist assisting with mammograms, CAT scans, and X-rays. She thought she had seen it all in her career until COVID-19 arrived in her small town.
“It’s shocking—I never in my life dreamed anything like this,” she said. But a global pandemic is not going to stop Hope from showing up every day to do her job. “People are still having heart attacks. People are still having strokes. People are still getting cancer. None of those things have stopped just because COVID came to town,” Hope said.
That’s not to say COVID-19 hasn’t had a major impact on Hope’s day to day. Her hours have been reduced and she doesn’t get facetime with her Lung Surveillance team member, Cherie Miller. “We are not working any of the same shifts, so we don’t get to bounce things off each other as much as before,” she said. That hasn’t stopped the Lung Surveillance team from ensuring patients are cared for during the COVID-19 crisis. The team is having virtual pow-wows to manage patients and has been using Eon’s Essential Patient Reports to focus on those who need to be prioritized for immediate follow-up.
“We are strapped right now and it’s helpful to have a report that gives us focus,” Hope said. “It keeps us on schedule, so we don’t get bogged down.”
Adjusting the way she works in the office is just one change Hope has faced as a result of the virus. She also mentioned that her daily routine begins with a prayer as always and now ends with her removing all of her clothes and immediately putting them into the wash as she walks in the door after a long shift. “As a healthcare worker, I know I’m at a higher risk,” she said. “I have to do everything I can to protect my family as well as my patients.”
“This is just something I signed up for—I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special.”
— Hope White, Multi Procedures Technologist at Scott Memorial Health
The extra precautions are worth it for Hope. She will do anything to keep her precious family safe. She’s also trying to step back and just breathe. “I try to take a few minutes every day to stop and calm down,” said Hope. “I don’t ever know what I’m going to walk into and that was my job even before COVID. It’s all part of the job—I just take it minute by minute.”
Juggling the stress of her job and caring for patients during an unprecedented pandemic is not the only thing keeping Hope up at night. She’s also a mom and is devastated that her son, who is a senior in high school, won’t get to experience a typical graduation ceremony. “I just wish I could fix this all for him, but I have to remember that we’re all here, we’re healthy, we have each other—and that makes me feel OK,” she said fighting back tears.
Hope knows we will get through all of this together. She is proud to be a front-line healthcare worker at Scott Memorial Health. “They have done everything they can to make sure we have what we need,” she said. “I’m proud of our organization and what we do every day.”
Thank you for being a Patient Champion, Hope. We are proud of you and the important work you do every day for Essential Patients.
Heather Heuer, Lung Cancer Patient Navigator at UP Health System – Marquette, isn’t letting a global pandemic get in the way of caring for her patients. It’s not her style to step away when things get tough.
“You have to make do with where you’re at in life and make the best of it,” she said when asked about how she’s coping with caring for patients as Cancer and COVID-19 collide.
For the past nine years, Heather has been working at UP Health System – Marquette, helping cancer patients navigate from diagnosis to survivorship. In her mind, every patient is an essential patient—and even an unprecedented pandemic won’t change how she approaches caring for at-risk lung cancer patients.
COVID-19 has changed the way Heather works, but it hasn’t affected the way she puts patients first. She stepped up to the challenge and began supporting patients remotely. “We are able to see more patients now via telehealth than before,” she said. “We’ve also changed the way we see patients who come into the office by strategically placing chairs to maintain social distancing and doing everything we can to limit multiple trips to the hospital.”
Heather also mentioned that she is using tools like Eon’s Essential Patient Report (EPR) to help prioritize and manage patients right now. Every week, she reviews her EPR, which segments patients based on lung-cancer risk. Then reaches out to patients and their physicians who need immediate follow-up.
“These reports have changed my approach to scheduling patients,” she said. “The report helps us prioritize patients based on probability of risk.”
“You have to make do with where you’re at in life and make the best of it.”
— Heather Heuer, Lung Cancer Patient Navigator, UP Health System – Marquette
When Heather is with patients, she is thorough and always available to help them make informed decisions. “Some patients have questions and concerns about coming in for care right now,” she said. “As a patient navigator, this is new territory for me. In the past, a patient would get a diagnosis and would be able to come in right away. Now, our process is evolving to meet the needs of our patients and this new environment we’re all facing.”
Of course, Heather empathizes with her patients and understands. But her calm demeanor, clinical approach, and optimistic attitude go into high gear as she talks to her patients. “I am able to give our patients helpful information so they can make an informed decision. I educate them about the precautions our hospital has in place, and help ease their mind,” she said.
Her role is to educate her patients and be there as an excellent resource to answer questions that come up along the way. Heather admits things are different now. She said there’s a “pre-COVID and post-COVID way of life” that we are all going to have to figure out. But she’s hopeful for the future and what’s to come.
“I am embracing hobbies and focusing on my health, mind, and reconnecting with people,” she said. “It’s sad that it takes a pandemic to reconnect with people, but it’s also been a great pause.”
In her spare time, Heather is an outdoor enthusiast and can be found exploring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on her mountain bike, paddleboard, and kayak.
Thank you for being a Patient Champion, Heather. We are proud of you and the important work you do every day for Essential Patients.