Our firm admires the hard work, dedication and fierce commitment of frontline workers who are helping those in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have stepped up in the face of this great challenge and we, along with the rest of our community, are profoundly grateful. To shine a light on some of the heroes in our community, we have created a series of blog posts to help share their stories of working during COVID-19.
Jason Wertheim, MSN, RN, CHPN is a wonderful example of a frontline hero. Jason serves as vice president of patient services at Hudson Valley Hospice and pours his heart and soul into helping others. Learn more below and join us in thanking Jason for his invaluable contributions to our community.
Tell us more about the mission of your organization and the populations you serve.
Hudson Valley Hospice is always here to help our community. Today, in the midst of this pandemic, and every day, we are committed to providing vital compassionate care, programs and services to our community – the men, women and children of Dutchess and Ulster Counties who are facing life-limiting illnesses of themselves or a loved one. Life-limiting illnesses do not wait, and they do not discriminate.
At home, in a nursing facility or in one of our local area hospitals, Hudson Valley Hospice helps both the patient and their loved ones understand and manage as the illness progresses.
By providing physical, spiritual and emotional support, our physicians, professional nursing staff, home health aides, social workers, bereavement specialists, chaplains, music therapists, end of life doulas and volunteers help the patient and their loved ones through what will be one of their most challenging journeys. We also follow our patient’s loved ones for 13 months after the patient has died, offering bereavement services, individual sessions and specialized groups to help them manage their grief.
How you have been carrying your mission, programs and services forth during COVID-19? What has changed?
We remain absolutely focused on our mission. However, in a brief period, we have changed many aspects of our day to day operations. While most visits by our nurses and home health aides are still done in person, we have quickly ramped up our telehospice program with virtual visits for nurses, social workers, chaplains and music therapists. We have also refocused our communication to ensure all staff are aware of a patient’s COVID-19 status. Our bereavement staff have changed to phone and virtual visits, as well. We have had to educate staff, patients and their loved ones on COVID-19 and how to protect everyone during this difficult time.
How has your specific role changed since the start of this crisis?
Our CEO was ill at the beginning of this crisis; as a result, I was acting CEO. We quickly moved most of the staff to working from home to minimize spread and, when at all possible, focused the clinical staff on virtual visits. Thankfully, he has returned, and my full focus can be on supporting our clinical staff.
What are the biggest challenges your organization is facing right now?
Our biggest issue is shortage of N95 masks. We have been able to find most other personal protective equipment, but there are very few N95 masks to be found. N95 masks are the ones we use when actually working with a COVID-positive or COVID-suspected patient or family member. Staffing has also been challenging. Twenty percent of nurses were out at one time. We are so very grateful that they are returning to work as soon as they are able.
How can people show support?
Support Hudson Valley Hospice. Show appreciation to the frontline nurses, aides, doctors and all the staff caring for COVID patients. If you have access to personal protective equipment, including those N95 masks, please consider making a donation. We are also extraordinarily grateful to the makers of the Hudson Valley who are sewing masks for us… there are never enough and all are appreciated!
Consider a donation to our Foundation. They are raising funds to cover the costs of the tablets we are using for our telehospice program, personal protective equipment, charity care and more.
What has resonated with you most during this time?
I have never been prouder being a nurse. We are the ‘firefighters’ of this crisis, running toward the burning building, while others are running away. My staff has stepped up and faced this crisis head on, continuing to care for our patients and their loved ones, putting themselves at risk to ensure that our mission to enhance the quality of living for those near the end of life is met.
If you had to pick something positive that has come out of this, what would it be?
Through this crisis, there has been a much greater appreciation of nurses and nursing. Nurses offer so much and are critical in the health care system. It’s nice to have that clearly recognized.