Heroes of West Texas Spotlight: Jason Hunter
Jason Hunter: Medical ICU Clinical Instructor
"My name is Jason Hunter and I am the clinical instructor for UMC's Medical ICU. When we first started hearing reports of a virus traveling across the globe, it was difficult to assess just how bad it was really going to be. I was initially responsible with helping to set up our process just in case COVID made it to Lubbock. We prepared for COVID-19 the same way we trained the nurses for Ebola: 2 nurses to one patient with unlimited supplies. We very quickly learned the severity of the pandemic far surpassed anyone's expectations and that we would have to alter our unit's response. Early days of the pandemic were filled with uncertainty and fear for many of our staff members, and as one of the unit's leaders, I was constantly having to reassure our nurses and encourage them to be confident in the care they were providing. Many staff, including myself, made the decision to segregate themselves from the rest of their families until more was learned about the virus. It was an incredibly difficult time and we were without our normal support systems to help us get through it.
Early challenges during the pandemic, besides conquering the fear of uncertainty, included breakdowns in communication and dealing with constant change. Our nurses were receiving multiple emails on changing the COVID process a day, and many decided to stop reading their email altogether. This, of course, led to safety concerns for our nurses and the patients. I volunteered to start working nights in order to have a management presence to help facilitate communication and be available for any decisions that had to be made in the middle of the night. As the pandemic drug on, our nurses were without break and suffering from the immense emotional toll that comes with caring for this extremely challenging patient population. Many were reporting burnout and needing to find alternatives in their nursing careers. Our management team worked, with the support of UMC, to put together resources for emotional support. We encouraged our nurses to seek out these opportunities. I also sought out ways to recognize our amazing staff and highlight their efforts at every opportunity I could. I would write up nominations for awards, which I am happy to say that MICU was well represented in Daisy presentations and All-Star awards throughout the course of the year. I would also document and take pictures of our staff, especially when they were receiving donated food and cards from our loving and supportive community. The year still took its toll on our staff, and many of the nurses that were recognized have already left to pursue other opportunities.
This last year, I onboarded a record number of nurses for our Medical ICU. Though many staff had decided they could no longer continue the emotional journey with us, many more were jumping at the opportunity to assist us in our fight against COVID-19. As the fall approached, our worst fears were realized as we were overwhelmed with COVID patients. The acuity and workload for these patients was dramatically higher, as was the mortality rate. Every shift was an increased challenge with new obstacles to overcome, even though we had already come up with a routine that kept our nurses safe and helped us get through the pandemic. As the entire hospital system was overwhelmed, many areas were having to take on these patients for the first time. This led to another round of fear and anxiety for those new to caring for the patients, so I uploaded electronic copies of inspiration cards from children in our community with the hope that other areas could use them to encourage our staff. As the COVID-19 cases drop, my unit is finally able to release a collective sigh of relief, and we are praying that we may soon see the end to this historic event."