Even in the darkest times, we are reminded to look for the good. In Jamestown, those do-gooders are often essential workers, exceeding expectations for their teams and community.
At Jamestown Regional Medical Center, employees are facing a reduction in hours as the hospital postponed elective surgeries in March. This created anxieties among employees, especially those with young families.
“Healthcare workers are in a challenging position. Today, we tell people they can’t work and must go home. Yet, tomorrow, we may have a surge and tell them, ‘you can’t go home.’ Healthcare workers are among the resources we need most right now, yet they carry some of the heaviest burdens of this pandemic,” said JRMC President & CEO Mike Delfs.
To help their teams, Patient Access Clerks Holly Wald and Annette Schall adjusted their schedules. Wald used her paid time off so colleagues could earn more of their full paychecks. Schall is working fewer hours during the week and taking on weekend shifts so those with children can work regular business hours.
“You feel for these people. You can tell it wears on them,” Wald said. “They’re thinking ‘How can I support my family? How can I pay my bills?”
Schall agreed, saying she remembers when she worked three jobs to support her children. Her small town supported her then and she wants to pay it forward now.
“Everybody is like family at JRMC,” Schall said. “This is our culture.”
JRMC’s vision is to be the best rural hospital in the country for patients to receive care, employees to work and providers to practice, Delfs said.
“As we prepare for this challenge, I know we have the very best people for the job. I am confident in our teams’ abilities, skill sets and training,” Delfs said. “There’s a reason we’re a Top 100 hospital and a Best Place to Work and that reason is difference makers like Holly and Annette.”
In addition to Wald and Schall, other members of the patient access team and patient financial services team have also reduced their worked hours voluntarily to support their teams. Those employees include: Shelly Fercho, Betsy Fitz, April Lange, Krista Ames, Michele Geigle, Michelle Hermanson and Betty Kennedy.
“These individuals sacrificed their own lives for their coworkers and JRMC,” said Alison Kennison, patient financial services and access manager. “They are truly THE difference in the lives of those we serve.”
Frontline workers community-wide are making sacrifices to care for the region.
Andrew Berkey, operations manager for Jamestown Area Ambulance, sent his three-year-old to live with his parents in Minnesota. That is five hours away, or a 10-hour trip just to say “hi.”
The ambulance team sent crews to assist in New York in addition to caring for the people of Jamestown, N.D. Thea’s mother works in a nursing home, so the likelihood of one or both of parents getting infected is high.
“We knew our workplaces face a high likelihood of shortages, so this allows us to serve our community and keep our daughter safe,” he said.
So far, Thea has stayed with grandparents for about a month. Berkey said they FaceTime twice per day.
“For me, it is awful,” he said. “I look at Minnesota’s case count and see the numbers rise. I just want to make sure I made the right choice. I think I did, however, it is still agonizing and terrible and I want to cave and pick her up. I hate it every day.”
Berkey said he loves ambulance work, both working in leadership and working with patients. He’s used to deployments to other states, however, when he agrees to those, he knows when he’ll get to go home. For this pandemic, he doesn’t know when he’ll see his daughter again.
“I just keep reminding myself that when Thea is older, this will make sense and I hope she will be proud of me,” he said.