May 05, 2020
Creative ways our employees are supporting our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
BY Meagan Raeke
As we all face unprecedented changes and challenges brought by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, kindness matters more than ever. With social distancing and other proactive measures in place, MD Anderson employees have taken the initiative to find new and creative ways to show they care for our cancer patients, who are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19. Here are a few examples.
Kind words and healthy habits to slow the spread of coronavirus
Washing your hands often and properly is one of the most important things we can each do to protect against the novel coronavirus. To encourage good hand hygiene, MD Anderson’s Specialty Pharmacy sent a hand-signed letter and mini-bottle of hand sanitizer to all patients who received prescription deliveries in April.
After reading a Women’s Health article featuring an MD Anderson patient who specifically mentioned her fears about medicine supply chains being affected by the pandemic, Megan McGugan, Pharm.D., a manager in the Specialty Pharmacy, knew she wanted to do something special for the patients that depend on specialty medicines.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about her concerns,” McGugan says. “I thought if she was feeling this way, there’s no doubt other patients are feeling the same way. I knew we needed to do something to reassure our patients that we will be here for them through this challenging time.”
McGugan and team created a short letter to share best practices for hand hygiene and to remind patients that the Specialty Pharmacy team is available to answer any questions. All six members of the team signed each letter, which was accompanied by hand sanitizer left over from a previous project. The team mailed out about 700 letters total and received heartfelt thanks from many patients and caregivers.
Chalk art offers colorful encouragement
Patients and employees walking into MD Anderson West Houston after Easter weekend were greeted by uplifting messages written in chalk art along the sidewalks. Natalie Sanchez and Jacque Andrepont, both managers at the West Houston location, were inspired by chalk art that staff from MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital and Arts in Medicine Program drew for our health care heroes at MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus.
“We want our patients and their families to know that we’re here to do whatever they need to make this process better for them,” Sanchez says.
Since then, more chalk art has welcomed patients and employees at both our West Houston and Texas Medical Center locations. The most recent round of chalk art at MD Anderson gave patients and employees artistic reminders of the continued importance of social distancing and hand hygiene as businesses in Texas gradually begin to re-open.
“The current situation really goes past encouraging us to be creative; it requires us to be creative,” says Nicole Rosburg, Child Life Services manager. “We’re excited to use chalk art to spread joy – and healthy practices – to employees and patients.”
New ways to celebrate cancer patients during COVID-19 pandemic
Coronavirus precautions currently prevent our patients’ friends and family from joining them for appointments, as well as special occasions, such as ringing the bell to celebrate the end of a treatment phase. But employees have stepped up to make sure these moments are still special. For example, a team of radiation therapists cheers on each patient who rings the bell after completing radiation treatment in Mays Clinic.
“Ringing the bell is a wonderful way to mark the end of a chapter in someone's life,” says Thomas Welch, a radiation therapist. “It’s special to us to be able to take part in that celebration.”
When a patient at MD Anderson West Houston was disappointed that her husband couldn’t join her to ring the bell, staff opened an external door down the hall to allow him to watch and celebrate from a safe distance outside the building. And at MD Anderson in Sugar Land, Cherie Walters, an advanced practice provider supervisor, and Caitlin Byler, a regional program development director, ordered hand bells for patients to ring at home with their families.
Treating patients like family
Employees have gone out of their way to keep patients and families connected for little moments, too. In her role as a patient care technician, Tequicha Price gets to know leukemia patients, who are often hospitalized for long periods of time.
Price co-chairs a group that regularly plans activities and events for patients in the G11 inpatient Leukemia unit, but the team has had to become more creative during the COVID-19 pandemic. While they can no longer organize group activities like brunch for Mother’s Day, they’ve found plenty of ways to make patients feel special. These include doing patients’ laundry, giving out inspiration boxes and helping patients learn how to video chat on their smartphones. One thing that hasn’t changed is the team’s commitment to getting to know their patients and finding ways to meet their needs.
“We want our patients’ families to feel comfortable knowing that we’re going to take care of them no matter what,” Price says. “Our goal is to treat each person like they’re our own family.”
Our goal is to treat each person like they’re our own family.
Patient Care Technician