Infection Control Nurse Ashley Williams has been the go-to person at NSMC during the pandemic

By BY MARK H. STOWERS FOR THE E-T,

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, information was everywhere. Some from reliable sources but much was not. At North Sunflower Medical Center, it’s Ashley Williams’ job as Infection Control Nurse to sift through the reliable source info and get it in the hands of those who need it.

“I make sure all of our employees are following the CDC and state guidelines regarding COVID-19 and any other infectious diseases we may encounter,” Williams said. “I monitor our PPE and keep up with patient results. There’s a lot of monitoring and data collection.”

Williams has been on top of the guidelines for the past five years after her stint in the center’s emergency room. Her job hasn’t changed but there’s more information to relay these days.

“Everybody is looking to me for guidance,” she said. “The newness of this disease and answering questions as they put out information. It’s been very fluid so every time they change something, I’m out there changing it here.”

Since March, her job has been different each day in working to handle the information and care about the coronavirus.

“The hardest part is making the big decisions when changes come out. We’re trying to protect everyone and their safety. Whenever they say we can open things up, those kinds of changes are pretty difficult as to what we are going to allow in our facility.”

Williams works with the hospital’s administration and a task force that meets three times a week to stay on top of everything.

“I’m over the clinic, the hospital and the nursing home. I helped get the screening tent set up. I’m sort of a liaison between the recommendations and screening questions that need to be on the form,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control has been working to drop information mostly on Fridays. This has helped give time to medical providers to look over and make changes during the weekend.

“On Friday afternoons after five they keep changing things,” she said with a laugh.

In March when the virus first hit, Williams started ordering as much personal protection equipment as she could get her hands on. Then she took on the task of reading all of the material coming out as well.

“I started just doing a lot of reading and educating myself so I could educate everyone else. We started having nurses’ meetings at the clinic and at the nursing home making sure our employees knew what’s going on and how to protect themselves and their patients,” she said. “Everybody has been very accepting of everything I’ve implemented. We do have a unit set up for COVID-19 patients. We had to displace a whole department to do that and they were accepting of that.”

She noted nurses have been very accommodating in taking on the care of COVID-19 patients. She does know there will be a different normal when things calm down.

“I think people will be wearing masks for a long time and will be very cautious about exposure to other people for a long time,” she said. “We are implementing measures to preserve our PPE as much as possible. We do have some homemade masks that some people are able to wear.”

In working to sanitize and bleach gowns and such, Williams and her staff are working to safely re-use some items. With so many changes and with a huge spotlight on health and safety, Williams is appreciative of her staff enduring the constant changes and wealth of information being showered upon them.

“Everybody has been so wonderful and supportive of everything that I’ve done. I couldn’t ask for more from our staff,” she said. “We’ve been putting in overtime, nights and weekends.”

On the front lines of coronavirus information and helping keep her staff educated and safe, Infection Control Nurse Ashley Williams constantly has her hands full.

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