Like a super hero being called to duty, Stacy Winters was pulled from her role as a nurse practitioner onto an Instant Response team at Frederick Memorial hospital as COVID-19 began its initial tear through our country’s hospitals in March. Her team worked 24/7 taking care of COVID-19 patients all the while quickly developing protocols for admissions, testing and PPE distribution. In the first of its kind, NFM Salute steps beyond the boundaries of military service members and thanks national heroes on a different front line with this special edition honoring Stacy as she describes an experience she calls challenging and humbling.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Welcome into an NFM Salute First Responder Edition. It’s the first of its kind we’ve been wanting to recognize and pay tribute to first responders for a very long time. What better time to do that than now during this Coronavirus pandemic. We welcome in Stacy Winters. She is a nurse practitioner from the Frederick Maryland area. Stacy thanks so much for being with us on NFM TV.

– Thank you for having me today I appreciate that.

– We’re delighted , and thank you so much for your selflessness and for all that you’ve done to keep the community healthy over the years, in particular during this time, tell us a little bit about what you’ve been through and what you have faced in light of the pandemic.

– I have been working in primary care. I actually work in Hagerstown, Maryland in primary care office. Worked there up until the pandemic. So approximately up till March 17th. Left primary care, transitioned back into the hospital system to support Frederick Health. It used to be Frederick Memorial, now currently Frederick Health. I worked as a nurse resource at that time, supporting many of the floors, a COVID floor, as well as I spent about 90 days on their incident command team. On that team, we took all the CDC guidelines and Hopkins guidelines implemented them in the hospital, learned how to ration out PPE, keeping track of testing, sending stats to the local health department, and basically doing everything in the Frederick Health community to keep healthcare providers and staff safe.

– I would imagine it was so much chaos in the beginning because so much was unknown and the surge happened so fast. What was that period of time like for you and your associates?

– For myself as a primary care provider, it was quite daunting because essentially I had to leave my patients and transition into telehealth within a week. So I went from seeing in-office patients to outpatients as well as I actually had to diagnose patients via telehealth as a nurse practitioner. In the hospital of course there is anxiety of the unknown. Of course the regulations were changing. Constantly protocols were being implemented on the spot. So it caused for really requiring everyone to pivot very quickly and on all levels from top administrators down to just every staff person, including our health sanitation individuals. So we all were impacted, but I will say for the most part everyone did a wonderful job at trying to keep each other safe during that time, but it was difficult. Everything was changing almost hourly.

– Well and a lot more is known now, as we approach in our into the month of July, we’re several months into this right now. Do you think that hospitals are better prepared to deal with the pandemic? And is there enough PPE? We’ve obviously heard a lot about that, tell us about all of those things. And if you feel like the hospital system is better prepared to handle another surge should it continue.

– I will say that our hospital and other hospitals throughout the state really do have to give some kudos to G overnor Hogan who did an excellent job at securing PPE for the State of Maryland. With that said in the beginning of the pandemic, we did not have enough PPE. No one did at the time. Of course, over time we did though we did still have to monitor it and ration it out accordingly, but we are well-prepared right now. We don’t know what that will look like in the fall. No one knows what that will look like in the fall. I think that is something part of the strategy for many hospitals including our own, that we’re starting to look at how we’re going to handle Influenza A, Influenza B, and COVID all at the same time. But luckily Maryland is in the green right now for COVID in terms of our case, our hospital capacity, ICU capacity, as well as admission rates were all going down. This is wonderful. So I believe we’re in a good position. If everyone can continue social distancing and wearing a mask.

– I see behind you, you’ve got some words of inspiration. What’s the story behind those?

– Those words were placed immediately after I was sent home from my office and was required to start doing telehealth, didn’t know what telehealth would look like, but luckily centers of Medicaid and Medicare gave all the states the ability to start doing telehealth at home. I put some positive words behind me because that was going to be my new role, to stay in contact with my patients. And I wanted them to be inspired when they saw me and knew that I was thinking about them until I could get back to my office.

– I wanna talk about what got you into nursing. I know that, you were an employee of the federal government for quite some time, there were some things that happened in your travels around the world that inspired you to wanna lead a life of giving back. Can you give us a window into that?

– Actually I, my first round of school, I actually went to school to be a therapist. I went to Howard University had a masters and I have a masters in psychological counseling, worked with department of mental health and hygiene in Baltimore and Annapolis, in addictions at the time, did a lot of outreach work. And when HIV AIDS, the Big Chair, Whitman-Walker DC, as well as outreach work in Philadelphia, where I’m from originally. Unfortunately, most of the work at that time in the late nineties was contracted under Ryan White Title I money under the Clinton administration. A lot of the money dried up at the time so doing social services was dicey in terms of making just kind of a steady career path for myself at the time. So federal government was hiring, looking for individuals with psychological profiles, either masters or PhD level. I tested into that and actually took an assignment with the department of defense from 2000 to 2010, doing worldwide travel and analysts work for them. During that time, I actually was stationed in East Africa and I got a chance to really work with some NGOs there, nongovernmental organizations, international Red Cross, visited some HIV AIDS orphanages in Kampala, Uganda, and decided when I returned to the States that the world had become a little too unsafe for me. And I really wanted to transition back into a helping profession. At that time it looked like nursing gave me the most latitude to do the types of work I wanted to do. And then I was grateful. I actually got accepted to Johns Hopkins University, their School of Nursing and went through. I was one of the oldest students in the class at the time, but went through, made it through and have been working in nursing in various capacities in Maryland. Since then I worked at Hopkins. I also worked at Carroll Hospital Center as a psych nurse, and I’ve worked at Frederick for the past six years off and on doing all types of work, whether it’s nurse resource in the cardiac unit, behavioral health unit, telemetry unit, progressive care unit, even the NICU occasionally. So I enjoy my work. I’m grateful to be a nurse practitioner now continuing the work. And right now in the capacity I’m working as I’m doing outreach work to the community. I also volunteer at the Frederick Health Department just as needed.

– And we at NFM and in the lending community, and really the overall community are so grateful for your service to keeping us all safe and healthy. You’ve lived quite a distinguished life to this point and I’m sure will continue down that path. Stacy Winters nurse practitioner from the Frederick Maryland area. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us here on NFM TV.

– Thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate it, it’s an honor.

– It’s our pleasure continued success. I’m Greg Sher from NFM TV. Hope you have enjoyed this special edition. We’re gonna be featuring more first responders in the months ahead so you can look forward to that. until then, we’ll see you next time