As empty as our streets were during the earlier days of the pandemic shutdowns, Detra Dodge, LPN, found Geisinger’s corridors to be the same way.

“I have never been through anything close to this, and I can’t imagine what the younger, newer nurses must be feeling through it,” said Dodge, who’s been in nursing for more than 30 years. “The hospital that is usually bustling around and with parking lots overflowing was sort of like a ghost town. You would pass very few people in the hallways.”

Like other hospital employees in our area, Dodge has volunteered to fill in gaps where needed during the coronavirus pandemic. In March her clinic nurse manager at Lewisburg Geisinger Clinic at Brookpark, in Lewisburg, asked for volunteers to be deployed to Geisinger’s main campus.

“I had gone into nursing to help people, so I volunteered,” she said.

Similarly, Teresa Shaffer, a patient access representative at Geisinger’s Woodbine Family Practice, in Danville, volunteered to be sent where needed. She ended up going from a job where she greeted and registered patients to guiding patients entering Geisinger’s Advanced Medicine department and eventually spent a few months pitching in at VitaLine Pharmacy, located next to Woodbine.

“I said, I’ll go wherever you need me to go,” Shaffer said. “Basically I’m clerical work, but the first couple of weeks I was in there the pharmacy itself really needed help. They went from about 60 patients a day to 300.”

Shaffer packed kits for pharmacy employees who visit patients for in-home infusions.

“I said, I don’t care what you give me to do,” she said, adding with a bit of a laugh, “But if I never have to package alcohol wipes again, I won’t be upset because I probably did about 10,000 of them.”

Dodge spent two weeks assisting with patient care at regular nursing units but then ended up in Geisinger’s Respiratory Department.

“For the remainder of the 13 weeks I was assisting the Respiratory Department with treatments so it would free them up for patients who were more acutely ill with COVID, on the vents,” she said. “So then they could provide more hands-on patient care than I would be able to.”

Stepping into unfamiliar territory challenged both women, but they were happy to help.

“I was kind of nervous to start with, but they were really good about showing me what I needed to do,” Shaffer said. “I’m just the kind of person that says ‘wherever I’m needed.’ I didn’t want to sit home. It really bothers me not to be here and helping in some way.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better team to work with,” Dodge said. “They were very welcoming and appreciative of all the help we were able to provide for them. It was almost like my home away from home.”

When the stress of caring for very sick people became overwhelming, Dodge said she could go outside for a walk, and the hospital provided rooms where employees could “go in and just relax and forget about everything.”

Shaffer praised the precautions the pharmacy takes in keeping employees and patients safe from the virus. She continues to help where needed.

“I know I’m not the only one out there that’s working hard,” she said. “The whole staff here is doing an excellent job. We’re all taking turns doing what we have to do and going where we need to go.”

Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com

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