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Nurse Practitioners Step Up to Protect Community from COVID-19 Outbreak

April 23, 2020 8:21 a.m.

  • COVID-19 drive-though testing at SBL Newton Clinic
  • COVID-19 drive-though testing site
  • COVID-19 drive-though testing at SBL Newton Clinic
COVID-19 drive-though testing at SBL Newton Clinic COVID-19 drive-though testing site COVID-19 drive-though testing at SBL Newton Clinic

Two Sarah Bush Lincoln nurse practitioners are going above and beyond to provide COVID-19 testing and slow the spread of the virus recently discovered in a Jasper County long-term care facility.

Sarah Bush Lincoln Newton Clinic Advanced Practice Providers Michelle Fulton, APRN, and Michele Kinder, APRN, were quick to offer their assistance when the Jasper County Health Department sought help in controlling the outbreak.

“They told us we’re here for you. We will do anything you need,” Jasper County Public Health Administrator Deborah Riddle said of Fulton and Kinder. “They are the only ones that are offering COVID-19 testing in all of Jasper County right now and they have been amazing. The community is so lucky to have their services.”

Kinder performed the initial COVID-19 tests at the long-term care facility on April 3 and Fulton joined her in expanding testing as more residents became symptomatic. On Monday, April 20, the nurse practitioners provided testing to more than 40 residents as well as a number of staff members. They have now tested every resident at the 60-bed facility.

In addition, the SBL Newton Clinic set up a drive-through testing center in its parking lot on Tuesday, April 22, and collected 39 specimens from those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. “Patients were pre-identified for testing and they stayed in their car and were tested though the car window,” Fulton said.

SBL staff members who worked the drive-through testing with Fulton and Kinder included, Megan Steffen, APRN, who was a former RN employed at the SBL Newton Clinic and is now an APRN for SBL Shelbyville Clinic, Office Assistant Heather Wakefield and Radiologic Technologist Robin Hout. The clinic has collected 164 specimens to date, working in partnership with the Jasper County Public Health Department.

While Fulton and Kinder are happy to help with the testing, “This really isn’t about us,” Kinder said. “This would not have been possible without Sarah Bush Lincoln’s laboratory services and without help from many other people. I am amazed at the teamwork and proud to be a part of it!”

While protecting their own health and that of their coworkers is also a concern, “We feel very fortunate that Sarah Bush Lincoln has provided us with adequate PPE (personal protective equipment) for all of our testing. For each test we wear an N95 mask, eye protection, gown, and double glove,” Fulton and Kinder said.

COVID-19 testing is still ongoing, but the care facility is working hard to control the outbreak and protect others. To date, the facility has reported 26 positive COVID-19 residents and 10 positive staff members. “We are doing everything possible we can to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 within our facility. We are operating ‘all hands-on deck’ to ensure not only our COVID-19 positive residents are cared for while continuing to care for our residents not impacted by the virus,” the facility administrator said in a press release. “Despite our aggressive efforts, our first case occurred as a result of contact between a resident and an asymptomatic person, outside of our facility, in March.”

Fulton is impressed with their efforts and the goodwill she witnessed from its staff. “I have a newfound respect for the nurses and staff members who work at the care center. They were never worried for their own health, rather they worried who would care of the residents if they tested positive for COVID-19. They really do love the residents and that was truly heartwarming to see,” she said.

While the SBL Newton Clinic is not a COVID-19 testing facility, Fulton and Kinder urge Jasper County residents to contact the Newton Clinic at 618-783-3800 if they are experiencing symptoms of the illness. “We will help make a determination as to whether COVID-19 testing is necessary,” Fulton said. “We want the community to know that we are here for them and they don’t need to go elsewhere for testing. It is a privilege to take care of our friends and neighbors in our own community. When times are hard, small towns come together. We are proud to be a part of that!”

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