WILLIAMSPORT – On the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and doctors at COVID-19 testing sites run the risk of interacting with the virus every day.
For Shawna Varner and Stacy Barone, it’s about providing the best care to their patients, while working hard to keep themselves safe.
Family Practice Center has 40 practices along the Susquehanna River and now has three COVID-19 testing sites – Williamsport, Selinsgrove and Enola.
Even though one Family Practice Center staff member in York County already has tested positive for the virus, the doctors and nurses are eager to volunteer and help at the testing site.
“My nurses are awesome,” said Barone, a nursing supervisor. “I haven’t had to twist any arms to come out and do this. They volunteer. They want to help.”
The Williamsport site, situated between the Family Practice Center and Faxon Bowling Lanes, is open by appointment at set times during the day and only for Family Practice patients, according to Benjamin Williard, chief financial officer for the center.
Individuals are directed to the testing site by their doctor if possible signs of the virus are seen. They drive up in their car and are instructed to remain in the vehicle with the window up. A nurse in full protective gear – wearing a gown, face mask, gloves and goggles, walks up to the car and takes either a throat or nasal swab, which is then sent for testing.
The patient is instructed to leave the site and return to their home to await results, which take two to three days to arrive, Williard said.
“We have been really proud of our staff,” Williard said. “They wanted to be on the front lines and really wanted to be a part of this.”
While testing numbers were low at first, Williard said they have picked up a great deal over the past few days and he expects the number to continue to grow.
So far, over 2,200 positive cases have been reported in Pennsylvania, with hundreds more coming in every day.
As cases continue to increase, the sites will get busier but doctors and nurses still need to provide care to their other patients, many of whom have pre-existing diseases that make them more susceptible to the virus, Williard said.
The Family Practice Center is using telemedicine to reach these patients at home and keep them out of the office. Varner, a medical assistant, added that she and the other nurses will often meet patients in the parking lot to give them a note or medical script.
“We love our patients, so we’re still going to be here for them,” Varner said. “The best thing is to keep people home.”
For Williard and Barone, ensuring that the nurses are protected is essential. Donations of masks and other supplies by the community are also vital, Barone said.
“We just had a donation of some of the eye gear and the masks,” she said, adding that “providing them with what they need to help our patients can decrease the risk.”
Above all, Barone and Varner urge the public to stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of the disease.