Late Tuesday morning, Governor Steve Sisolak delivered a bouquet of flowers to Las Vegas nurse practitioner Geoconda Hughes. The two then sat on her couch discussing topics ranging from the shortage of nurses to the emotional toll of working in an intensive care unit during the pandemic.
âWe have seen six people die a dayâ from COVID-19 in his intensive care unit at the start of the pandemic, Hughes told the governor. âIt was horrible.â¦ But it’s better now. I think the vaccinations were essential for us.
The governor said, âI can’t begin to thank you enough for everything you do. “
In this way, the governor launched a list of events during what he called “Nevada Healthcare Week” aimed at recognizing Nevadans who work in medicine and raising awareness in the community about their efforts. The events also provide an opportunity, he said, to learn more about the issues facing healthcare workers and possible solutions to their workplace challenges.
At the start of the pandemic, Hughes, then an intensive care nurse, spoke of the shortage of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, needed to keep healthcare workers safe. Union representative, she also underlined to what extent the deterioration of the nurse / patient ratio was delaying response times.
“I wanted to quit,” she told the governor during the half-hour meeting at her home in central Las Vegas. Not only did the death toll break her mind, but she felt compelled to live apart from her two teenage sons for weeks for fear of bringing the virus home.
When she was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine last December, and as she completed her education and training to become a nurse practitioner, she decided she could continue working in the ICU. Most of the patients she now sees with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, she said. With his family vaccinated, Hughes, who works at the Dominican St. Rose Hospital, Siena campus, feels much safer.
Hughes, 49, assured Sisolak that there were now adequate supplies of PPE, but said there was still a staff storage. She suggested Nevada might be more successful in attracting itinerant nurses to fill the gaps if it legislated nurse-to-patient ratios, like California does.
Sisolak said his staff would review possible legislation on the matter.
Meeting with nurses
Sisolak’s next stop was a panel discussion with members of the board of directors of the Philippine Nurses Association of Nevada, a professional non-profit organization.
Members explained how, among other volunteer efforts, they sewed masks and made plastic face shields during the pandemic to preserve the medical masks of staff working with COVID-19 patients.
Nurses, many of whom had contracted COVID-19 themselves, also stressed the importance of vaccination. Sisolak asked what more the state can do to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Cesar Noel Estillore, a nurse practitioner who contracted a severe case of COVID-19 before the vaccination was available and landed in the hospital on a ventilator, suggested more ads with testimonials from those who survived the sickness. Another member suggested a holiday raffle for the vaccinated, while a third advocated offering the vaccination in more medical clinics.
Some members also complained about the laxity in the application of the wearing of the mask during certain major events. Sisolak acknowledged that applying an indoor mask warrant has been a problem for frontline workers.
Sisolak thanked the group. âThis pandemic has brought out the worst in people and the best at the same time,â the governor said. âBut let me close with this: you are part of the best. “
Charina de Asis, director of the Nevada Office for New Americans, noted that without the work of skilled immigrants and refugees, the health care system would not perform as well as it does.
This week, the governor will also join Volunteers in Medicine to recognize volunteer health workers, visit the Martin Luther King Family Health Center and visit Quest Counseling in Reno.
Contact Mary Hynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0336. To follow @ MaryHynes1 on Twitter.