5 Ways to Help Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 By Guest Author Hannah Parker

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Local businesses are at the heart of every community and the hardest hit by COVID-19. The Payroll Protection Program offered payroll funds that had to be used within eight weeks, allowing employers to keep their workers paid while they sat at home waiting for the doors to open. Both essential and non-essential small businesses struggled to pay rent, insurance, and utilities, and despite a gradual reopening, social distancing measures limited the revenue needed to survive. Restaurants have been hardest hit with fewer tables, fewer customers and limited hours.

Many of us are still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 shut-downs, and although we are separated by social distancing, we can help our community thrive by supporting local shops and restaurants. Here are five ways consumers can help:

  1. Buy gift cards. Service companies like spas, salons, and barbershops that don’t sell products are hurting and purchasing a gift card to be used later would help them stay afloat now.
  2. Order take-out or delivery. With dine-in restrictions, many restaurants are dependent on take-out as a vital source of income but the profit margin is lower, so tipping a little extra can help them get through this economic crisis.
  3. Shop local. Many stores have reopened, but with limited hours and strict social distancing measures. Be loyal to local shops by ordering online from them instead of ordering from large internet retailers. If they don’t have an online platform, ask if they are selling their products on another site such as Etsy or Facebook Marketplace. Ask for store credit instead of a refund if you need to return an item and help boost their immediate cash flow.
  4. Spread the word. Follow small businesses on social media and share their posts. Use Yelp and other rating sites to leave good reviews, and have your friends and family do the same. Small businesses depend heavily on word-of mouth and local commentary.

Small businesses are hurting the most. It’s up to us as members of our community to do what we can to help them survive. With patience and empathy we can support our local businesses and help our recovery as a nation. Something as simple as buying a gift card from your favorite local restaurant will mean a lot to these neighbors who have always been there for us.

Guest Author Hannah Parker is a social work student intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and plans to attend graduate school.

FUN FACT: Hannah played basketball from the time she was five years old until her freshman year of college as a point guard. For the last several years she has coached boy’s and girl’s recreational basketball at the elementary and middle school level.

A Medical Social Worker* Takes On COVID-19: Guest Blog By Author Hannah Parker

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Much has been written about frontline healthcare workers tirelessly providing essential services to COVID-19 virus patients. Within these essential services are the many social workers who have become the liaison between dying patients and the family members forbidden to see them. Compared to other healthcare professionals, little has been written about the role of social workers in the hospital setting.

Julie Tyler, a Medical Social Worker at the All-American Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, experienced the COVID-19 crisis from the beginning. I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Julie so others could understand the important role social workers have been playing.

What was your position at the hospital before the pandemic?
I was working on the Lake Unit where things happened very quickly.
When someone experiences a traumatic event, they come to the Lake Unit (similar to an Emergency Department–but on steroids). Then they are immediately seen by a team of providers, taken to get CTs and MRIs, and are either stabilized and discharged, stabilized and admitted, or emergently go to the operating room. As the Social Worker on this unit, I cover a wide variety of micro issues and macro systems. The majority of my time was spent assisting patients with discharge plans, ensuring they have a safe place to go home to, have assistance at home if needed, and are aware of the benefits and resources in their area to help them after their injury.
Other duties included assisting with identifying patients, identifying next of kin, providing resources and referrals, conducting assessments, transportation, providing documentation, counseling for patients and families, and everything in between.

What changed during March 2020?
COVID-19 first began affecting our daily professional lives when we were required to wear masks in patients’ rooms. As restaurants and non-essential businesses were closing in the state, resources we regularly referred patients to (social services, shelter, food resources, therapy and crisis intervention services) were changing the way they operated. Most services were moving from in-person to online, decreasing the number of clients they were taking, and modifying the services provided. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet, checking county governments’ sites for updated mandates, and calling programs for updated information regarding their hours, services, and criteria. We were trying to educate ourselves with our patients’ needs in mind, as they were evolving with the pandemic.

It was not long before elective surgeries and visitor restrictions were implemented to decrease the number of non-essential people in the hospital. This is when I felt our work lives became engulfed by Zoom. We were not only using it to assist patients communicate with their families, but to also hold family meetings with providers, for providers to talk to COVID positive patients, and for us as social workers to conduct assessments and provide support to patients and families.

In late March 2020, we began to do “COVID staffing”. That meant instead of working our normal Monday – Friday, 9-5pm schedule, we would be working three 12-hours shifts per week (Sunday-Sunday) with a fourth 8-hour shift every other week. Our jobs as social workers in the hospital cannot be done – in its full capacity– at home. This new shift-work schedule allowed for less people from our department to be in the hospital at one time.

I think this is when working during a pandemic started to take a toll in the workplace. My team consists of four social workers, and during this special staffing, there were only two of us covering five floors every day, sometimes only one worker if it was a weekend (like a “normal” on-call weekend). Honestly, it was a lot of work. There were shifts when I did not sit down, eat, or take a mask break. The few days off in between were spent sleeping so my body could recover and to prepare my mind to do it all over again.

Please describe a typical day in your role during the height of the pandemic.
During the COVID shift scheduling, I worked my normal units and covered the Beach Unit, our Intensive Care Unit for COVID positive patients. On this unit, instead of going to patients’ rooms to interact with them and their families, everything I did was either over the phone or on an iPad via zoom.

I had a cell phone that was only used to contact patients’ families who had loved ones on the Beach Unit (the ring tone still triggers me today).
Social workers were instructed to not go into COVID positive rooms, and quite frankly, we would not have been able to interact with these patients anyway. Every patient on this unit was intubated and sedated and needed the highest, acute, level of care. Every patient had an iPad in their room that faced them. Their iPads were connected to another one in a room full of iPads where nurses/providers inside the room could interact with providers outside the ‘containment’ part of the unit. Here, I would go into the room full of iPads and coordinate with the nurses about which of their patients had Zoom calls with their families. For these calls, I would always prepare the families for what the patient looked like (usually had a tube in their mouth to breathe and were hooked up to a bunch of machines). Then, the family would spend time with the patient, telling them how much they loved them, praying over them, and giving them well wishes for them to get better. This was the hardest part of my career so far. Most of these patients did not survive the virus.

I still remember my first patient. I was involved in their care from the day they were admitted until they passed. I spent a lot of time with their spouse on the phone, their family over Zoom, and in family meetings talking about the next steps and goals of care. I will never forget the conversation I had with the spouse after the patient’s passing. In the spouses’ grief, they told me how grateful they were for the care and services provided, including my job as their social worker. Working in trauma and on the COVID units, I believe it is a privilege when someone allows you to be with them during their most vulnerable moments. COVID-19 elevated that experience for me; I will forever be a part of these families’ last moments with their loved ones. Their names and sound of their voices I will never forget. I wholeheartedly believe this a beautiful way to practice Social Work and I am forever grateful for this experience.

What is it like at the hospital now, and what self-care strategies do you recommend for new social workers?
Today, I cover the Beach Unit from time to time. I have adjusted to my new referral “go-tos,” I’ve become faster using interpreter services and Zoom, and better at teaching others how to use the same. We continue to wear our masks and goggles all day every day. I still work on my normal units and have recently started covering the Sea Unit. The Sea Unit is for COVID-19 positive patients, but is an Intermediate Care Unit, meaning these patients are getting better and will discharge to rehab or home in the near future. These patients are living. It’s weird to say, but it is an adjustment, one I am overjoyed to make.

All social workers have been challenged with the restrictions of COVID-19, and the additional stress has been difficult to process. Many of us are finding that we are not able to process COVID experiences since they are still happening. It is critical to use time off to rest and cater to your physical self. To maintain mental stability, it helps to reflect on the silver linings. For me this was the increased teamwork and heightened use of my clinical skills. Another silver lining is the deep appreciation I feel for all hospital staff–from the medical team to maintenance and security. Most importantly, I remember that each patient and their families benefit from the collective work of many people and social workers like me are a vital part of that experience.

*While this is a true story, the names of the social worker, hospital, units and location have been changed per the request of the interviewee.

Guest Author Hannah Parker is a social work student intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and plans to attend graduate school.

FUN FACT: Hannah played basketball from the time she was five years old until her freshman year of college as a point guard. For the last several years she has coached boy’s and girl’s recreational basketball at the elementary and middle school level.

A College Student’s Covid-19 Journey: Guest Blog By Author Hannah Parker

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Like many students, my life changed abruptly in March with the spread of Covid-19. Classes became virtual and most places on campus closed. My catering job at school no longer needed me. It was not long before I joined my friends in the mass exodus of bewildered students moving back home with their families. I enjoy being with my family, and looked forward to some home-cooked meals and time spent with my siblings. But it was not long before I realized that “sheltering in place” was not a short-term experience. At school I was in constant motion, going to the coffee shop, gym, and club meetings. Now I was trying to adjust to new feelings of anxiety and uncertainty but also overwhelming gratitude.

Uncommon Anxiety

I keep hearing that this is the “New Normal” but wearing a mask, social distancing, and bathing in hand sanitizer is not normal. Virtual learning became difficult while dealing with other COVID-19 stresses like daunting world news, panic-buying, and fear of losing family and friends to the virus. Home technology brought new challenges as I battled for a piece of the Wi-Fi while keeping other family members from being heard in my unmuted background. Life as I knew it had been suddenly disrupted, and the unforeseen future did not look very promising.

Feeling Uncertain

Financial insecurity added to scholastic stresses as I dealt with the loss of my part-time job. Rent on my empty apartment was still owed each month, along with my car payment and credit card bill. The money I had saved was dwindling fast, and I welcomed the reopening of the restaurant I worked for when summer came. At fifty percent capacity, hours were not guaranteed, and the   tips did not make up for wearing a mask while serving customers outside in the intense heat.

Focusing on Gratitude

If I have learned anything this past year, it is that I am profoundly thankful for the safety nets under me: secure housing, family and friends. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my classes in an on-line setting, and for the virtual internship that has taught me to connect and collaborate remotely. I have learned to create a realistic schedule that allows for mental health breaks and time with family. Most importantly, I have learned to practice empathy for myself and others as we navigate through this transformation of the student experience.

For information on coping skills and tips for college students during COVID-19 click on the links below!

Guest Author Hannah Parker is a social work student intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and plans to attend graduate school.

FUN FACT: Hannah played basketball from the time she was five years old until her freshman year of college as a point guard. For the last several years she has coached boy’s and girl’s recreational basketball at the elementary and middle school level. 

Guest Blog By Author Dawn Rasmussen: Living In A Virtual World

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One day it was life as usual and the next day everything as we knew it came to a screeching halt.  Something we had never heard of changed our lives indefinitely and we were in a pandemic thanks to a new virus called the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Schools and businesses were closing, and restrictions were being put in place.  The news was full of stories about hospitals getting to capacity and how overworked our doctors and nurses were.  This really hit close to home for me. 

My youngest sister was in her final semester of nursing school.  She was finishing up clinicals, working at the hospital part time and waiting for her May graduation when the pandemic hit.  Hospitals were desperate for assistance.  She was given a nursing extern certificate so she could help.  Her unit, where she was already working part-time, was turned into a COVID unit and my sister was now working on the front lines.  It was an experience no one wanted, but she probably learned more than she would have in those last two months of school. 

Did you ever think that you would live during a pandemic?  I know I did not.  There is no more coming and going like we were so used to doing.  Maybe you began working from home and it sounded like a dream come true.  Or like many, you may be on the front lines working with COVID patients or helping the overwhelming amount of people struggling with mental illness. 

The isolation that people are feeling from being at home is really taking its toll on people of all ages.  The news and social media are constantly talking about COVID and the effect that it is having throughout the world.  2020 has been an extremely difficult year for all of us with no end in sight.  Now that the numbers are spiking again throughout the United States, we are beginning to hear of restrictions being put back in place.  Many people are fearing another quarantine.  This can be very stressful because of the unknown. 

Do you ever think about what you did prior to COVID that you are missing?  I do and I realized it is not so much what I am missing, it is more being told what I can’t do or shouldn’t do.  I feel confined and that I am not in control of my life– but that is a matter of perception.  If you Google “perception,” one of the definitions is a way of “regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression”. A mental impression. 

We need to focus our thoughts on what is important to us.  During these last nine months it has been a struggle being at home all the time, except for going to the grocery store, but there are some things that I have learned during this time: 

  • Enjoy the time you get to spend with your family now that your busy schedule has been minimized.
  • Treat every day like a new day.  The past is in the past and we need to keep moving forward.
  • Take time to read a book or start a journal.  My two younger daughters started a journal the second week of the pandemic because they wanted to try to remember what happened.  Little did we know how long it would last.
  • Most importantly, take care of yourself and hug those around you a lot more often!

Guest Blog Author Dawn Rasmussen is a Salisbury University social work intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. A proud cheer Mom for over 24 years, she also works at University of Maryland Global Campus as an Academic Coordinator.

How Do I Have A Successful Virtual Event?

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So many senior living and healthcare organizations are suspending in-person events indefinitely. Many organizations say they won’t even consider having an event until there’s a vaccine!

Virtual events can be just as impactful, but what are the best practices?

If you are trying to stay in touch virtually with clients, patients, referral sources and other customers during this challenging time, check out Jennifer L. FitzPatrick’s video on coordinating a successful virtual event: