For the last several weeks the health care professionals at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital Shawnee have monitored the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to preparing for a possible surge in cases.

According to Director of Acute Care Mary Love, she has been a nurse for the last 22 years and while she's encountered some major viruses, she said they’re not quite like the coronavirus 2019.

"We had the H1N1 swine flu and we had ebola and we have our experience getting ready for something such as this but I feel this is definitely more hands on," Love said.

The long time nurse said since the beginning of the pandemic she and other leaders at the hospital have been preparing their staff.

"My particular role is getting information from our admin (and) from our infection prevention, preparing our staff, being ready mentally and physically and just being prepared for the potential surge we are going to have," Love said.

The health professional said usually working in a hospital setting is challenging, but it's taken to a whole new level because of this pandemic.

"I think as nurses...on an everyday basis the stress level that you work at you're kind of accustomed to," Love said. "When such an event as this is occurring or potentially occurring it's (for sure) stressful. It's the fear of the unknown."

Love said as a leader it's important to help staff navigate through this difficult time and work together to keep each other and the community safe.

According to Communications and Marketing Consultant Carla Tollett, the hospital has been visiting with patients who suspect they have COVID-19 through online methods and advising them to learn more about the virus from the Oklahoma Health Department.

"If anyone in our community feels like they've been exposed we're asking them to call our clinic (at) 405-273-5801 and they can do a tele-health visit with a physician, go over their symptoms and if they meet the criteria they can be tested," Tollett said.

In addition to the clinic, Tollett said in preparation for a possible surge in cases, the hospital has set up tents outside its emergency room and created an isolation area inside the emergency room.

"Those tents are ready and could be operational if or when (a surge happens)," Tollett said. "We have taken a section of our emergency room and those are the rooms that are just dedicated to people who may have the symptoms."

The marking consultant said this was done to keep patients in isolation if needed and to allow patients with a medical emergency not pertaining to COVID-19 to receive the treatment they need.

For Love, she said as a medical professional she's grateful to the hospital and the community for their support during this difficult time.

"Our leadership here has done so much for our staff. The community has done so much and I thank them for all that support," Love said.

Tollett said while the coronavirus is something new, the hospital is always prepping for situations similar to it for the safety of the Shawnee community.

"We always have a starting plan and whatever the situation is then we can easily edit that and make it work for the current situation," Tollett said. "So we are prepared and we just want to keep our patients and our providers and our staff and our community safe...We're here for you and your health."

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