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On the Front Line: Port Arthur nurse talks about finding strength in COVID-19 fight

Emergency room nurse Christy Ford knows to always have a pot of coffee ready — she learned this at 16 in her very first job at Waffle House.

While the necessity for coffee at a restaurant is different than in a bustling emergency room, where life and death occur, there is a need to care for the whole person.

So when Ford, 35, goes on shift as a registered nurse in the emergency room at The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, she knows there are people who have been there all night.

“It’s important to realize even as a nurse we don’t just worry about the medication administration aspect of nursing,” she said. “We still have to be mentally supportive and have support for the families’ structure. A lot goes into it, not just the patient, but to support everything that’s around the patient and that cup helps.”

Ford, who is from the area, became a nurse because of a desire to care for people in a job that would allow her to travel in the future. She spent 12 years as a licensed vocational nurse and the past four as a registered nurse.

She is part of a team that works 12-hour shifts — some work straight through, while others stagger it out, so she may not be working with the same nurses each day. They are a team and have ways to keep morale high.

“We start each shift off with a daily prayer, a huddle prayer with nurses and staff and whoever wants to join in,” Ford said.

She said the most stressful impact of COVID-19 is the unknown.

“There is a high tension of the unknown, and we are not going to know how the virus would affect the community,” she said.

There is a plan for response, she said. The director of administration prepared team members for different scenarios of what can occur.

Through all of the stress that comes with working in the ER, Ford feels more connected to her team members.

“Even though I am distant from the outside world at home, I’m much more connected to my nurses because of our support and we go through the same things together,” she said.

She said the team is cemented together and feeds off each other’s strengths; if one nurse is having a bad day, a stronger nurse steps up. Since they have all been through difficult situations, most often there is no need for words.

“We don’t need to talk about it. It’s comforting for us to know we are not alone,” she said.

Most rewarding

Ford said the most rewarding part of her job is being out in the public and recalling patients she has helped.

“They don’t ever recall me, but it’s comforting in knowing I had a hand in their recovery,” she said.

Her dedication has not gone unnoticed.

“Christy is always aiding in research to improve processes for patients,” said Dr. Sarah Humme, chief nursing officer at the hospital. “Currently she is in her first year of nurse practitioner graduate program at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.”

As the community and beyond takes greater notice of the health care field battling coronavirus, there have been outpourings of gratitude.

There have been meals and snacks from the community as well as donations of supplies, along with some creative ideas for the nurses.

Recently, a church group drove around the hospital in a caravan praying.

“Such a small gesture from the community that meant a lot to us,” Ford said.

Currently, Ford wants the community to know even though this is a stressful time, they take care of the patients as if they were their own family.

“We truly have their wellbeing at heart; we do everything we can to make sure they’re safe,” she said.

Ford is a member of the Emergency Nurses Association, Texas Nurses Association and American Nurses Association. She is also a member of the peer review committee at the hospital and president of the hospital’s unit practice council for the emergency room.