Nurses ‘are our front-line warriors’ says director

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“This year is special because, for the first time, people are actually seeing firsthand what nurses are doing and what it’s like to be a nurse in the midst of a pandemic,” said  Kathleen Dethomasis, who directs nursing for the county’s health department.

ALBANY COUNTY — Kathleen Dethomasis, who directs nursing for the county’s health department, says her team has been working long hours — oftentimes double shifts, evenings, and weekends — “to ensure every individual who tests positive for COVID-19 is contacted the same day their laboratory result is reported to the health department.”

The contact-tracing and education the nurses provide are key to preventing further spread of coronavirus disease 2019, she said.

Dethomasis spoke at the county press briefing on Wednesday, which was National Nurses Day and the start of National Nurses Week.

“Nurses,” she said, “strive to promote health and well-being, to prevent disease, and provide compassionate care to their patients and to their families.”

While everyone knows, in a general sense, what nurses do, Dethomasis said, “This year is special because, for the first time, people are actually seeing firsthand what nurses are doing and what it’s like to be a nurse in the midst of a pandemic.”

Dethomasis went on, “Every night on the news, we see nurses working in hospitals, with COVID-19 patients, and they are our front-line warriors and they are to be commended. But right here in Albany County at the Albany County Department of Health, we have a dedicated team of nurses who are doing very important work for this pandemic.”

Working with other staff, Dethomasis said, nurses call each person who tests positive for COVID-19, collects their contact information, and provides them with education and strategies to prevent further spread of the disease, including adherence to isolation and quarantine orders.

“They ensure that patients’ needs are being met throughout this time and they facilitate testing for all contacts whenever needed,” Dethomasis said.

In addition to carrying out the myriad duties related to the coronavirus, the county’s nurses provide an array of other services, including making maternity visits, testing for tuberculosis, ensuring that children’s inoculations are up to date, treating sexually-transmitted diseases, and administering treatment for rabies.

Additionally, she said, the epidemiological staff investigates all communicable diseases that are reported to the health department.

“They are the faces of public health,” Dethomasis said of the county health department’s nurses. She said that, as the director of nursing and a nurse herself, she was honored to work with such dedicated and knowledgeable nurses.

Elizabeth Whalen, the county’s health commissioner, echoed those thoughts, praising her “tremendously dedicated staff.”

Whalen noted, “When we’re doing our work well, you don’t hear about us.”

She said that, during the pandemic, the health department workers and other essential staff have gone “above and beyond” in their work, which has been essential in controlling the spread of the disease.

County Executive Daniel McCoy read from a letter praising the nurses and aids who work at Shaker Place, the county’s nursing home. The letter was written by an unnamed woman whose mother lives at Shaker Place.

“The past two weeks,” she wrote, “have been especially hard on us as a family with my Mom being sick and not being able to comfort her. The nurses and aids have been great about giving us updates, addressing our questions and concerns, answering the phone for Mom when she couldn’t so I could talk to her, and facilitating window visits.”

McCoy explained that, because of coronavirus restrictions forbidding nursing-home visitors, Shaker Place lets residents view visiting friends and family members through glass.

The letter concluded, “I have seen such dedication and compassion in the staff at Shaker Place during this horrible pandemic … thank you for being there for my Mom while I can’t.”

More Regional News

  • The White House responded today to yesterday’s request from the National Governors Association to

  • “They surrendered without firing a shot,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the Trump administration’s battle against the coronavirus. “It was the great American surrender. Americans don’t surrender. And they didn’t even put up a fight and what we learned in New York was, if you put up a fight, you would have won because New York won. Other states won also.”

  • “We’re playing Whac-A-Mole with the micro-clusters,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. “You get a micro-cluster that flares up, we attack it, more restrictions, it drops, another micro-cluster pops up and what we’re seeing obviously nationwide is a very threatening rate of increase, and so far, knock wood, New York has defied that rate of increase.”

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