Nurses and Doctors: “We need your help – stay home!”

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Sparrow Hospital’s emergency entrance in a photo by Gary Caldwell.

“We are honored to serve and put our lives on the front line to protect and save as many lives as possible. But we need your help,” plead medical professionals in a new open letter to the American public.

How can you help keep nurses and doctors alive, able to work to save others? The authors make the answer clear: Stay at home!

Medical professionals in our own medical community tell ELi they are resoundingly on board with this urgent message from the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).

“I cannot tell you how important it is to have social distancing during this pandemic,” says area nurse Leah Cohen. The disease is spreading “within our community and the community at large.” The latest data from the Ingham County Health Department supports that conclusion.

Cohen, the Parish Nurse for Edgewood United Church of Christ, has ample experience keeping vulnerable populations safe from infectious diseases. As a registered nurse with 25 years of experience, she spent six years working on infection control for hospice patients at Sparrow Hospital. Since retiring from Sparrow, she advises the elderly in the Edgewood UCC Parish.

To her, the plea for staying at home “is a statement of concern and fear. Concern that as a healthcare team we cannot do our jobs if we do not have enough staff or staff is too ill to care for patients. Fear that people are not taking this seriously and putting our lives at risk.”

Emily Davis also cares for vulnerable patients in her role as a nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Sparrow Hospital. Many of Davis’ patients are born at 23 weeks — pregnancy usually ends at around 40 weeks — and often weigh less than a pound.

Prematurity obviously has implications for these babies’ immune systems, making them susceptible to infections.

According to Davis, “Staying at home during this crisis means reducing the chance of transmission to these babies, their families, and all of the healthcare workers needed to keep the unit functioning.”

“This is such a strange time to be stuck in our homes,” she continued, “but it’s so important that we all do our part to reduce the spread of this virus.”

Dr. Aron Sousa, the Interim Dean of the College of Human Medicine, told ELi that the organizations were “completely right” in releasing the open letter. He echoed the sentiment of the letter, stating that staying at home will keep our medical system from getting overrun.

Sousa emphasized that not staying home — and therefore increasing the community spread of COVID-19 — has dire consequences for everyone. Once hospitals cannot cope with the swell of COVID-19 patients, they will be unable to treat patients suffering from heart attacks or sustaining serious injuries from car accidents.

We can leave our homes for what is truly essential, but we should be very discerning. Sousa defined essential as “what you can’t get by without,” such as food, personal hygiene products, and materials to keep your house clean and functioning. Yes, you might run to the hardware store if your toilet breaks — his son did that this week — but you really don’t need to go out for most things.

This might mean new routines and pursuing new hobbies as other ones become untenable. Going for a walk is encouraged, but remember to stay a minimum of 6 feet apart.

In its letter, the AMA, AHA, and ANA thanked those who are staying home and turning to other means — such as video chats, social media, and phone calls — to maintain “meaningful social connections” at “a safe distance.”

However, they pleaded for millions more to join in the effort. The organizations pointed out that those with pressing medical concerns, including medical treatment, should still seek care. Non-urgent cases, please just stay home.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed

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