Dr. Bert Smith, a medical director with NHC, joined us to talk about the concerns of patients and families during the COVID-19 virus.  Dr. Smith is working on the frontlines during the pandemic with patients in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

What are some things to know about Dr. Smith?

Dr. Smith is a specialist in Internal Medicine with a practice focused on providing care for patients in transition from hospital to home or assisted living.  For the past seven years he has served as the medical director for eight NHC skilled nursing facilities. His work as a hospitalist caused him to focus on preventing avoidable hospital readmissions for seniors from area skilled nursing facilities.  Partners and families appreciate his down-to-earth demeanor and caring attitude.

How is the general attitude within skilled nursing centers and assisted living communities?

It’s had a big impact on what the centers do day-by-day and how they monitor patients. But life is not stopped.  The centers are still giving care and trying to create normalcy to treat patients. The NHC partners have come together as a healthcare community to try to focus on helping patients stay safe.

Are the CDC precautions new?

A lot of the precautions are not new. They have been in place for many years for the control of drug-resistant infections.  Some of the regulations have been expanded during this COVID-19 time. With isolation protocol or droplet precautions, our biggest goal is to keep infection from spreading room to room, or person to person. The centers are taking precautions for all patients coming from hospitals.

How do physicians and nurses mentally prepare for the risk?

Dr. Smith says he has been trained for these types of cases and he has experienced in controlled equipment.  If he does everything he has been trained for, he knows that his risk is low.

How has work in other healthcare settings prepared clinicians for COVID-19?

Being in the hospital helped Dr. Smith prepare for this time. He has had to take similar precautions in the hospital with HIV, Tuberculosis and even training for the possible spread of Ebola.  While this coronavirus is new, the precautions for infectious disease are not.

Are skilled nursing facilities safe?

Because of all the screenings, visitor restrictions and masks, the controlled environment of the facilities makes them safer than many other environments.

Is self-care important for clinicians and caregivers?

All of us need mental rest during this time.  It is important to take some breaks. Partners have stepped up so others can take some time away with their families.

Are there good things coming out of this crisis?

Innovation in healthcare is happening. The healthcare community is stepping up on tests and supplies to see if there can be improvements.  Healthcare is looking at everything and trying to see if it can be done better.

Are there positive things happening in the centers?

Team members are getting very creative for birthdays and anniversaries. Technology has been an asset so family members can keep in touch with their loved ones. Communications across the board have been improved.