Christina Lehr, a nurse for 25 years, was enrolled in COB’s Master of Health Administration program when she decided to “bite the bullet” and take three classes her final semester.
That was going into spring 2020.
“Never did I think COVID would hit. It had me scrambling,” Lehr said.
Lehr’s professors worked with her to complete her master’s while she juggled work responsibilities.
“Dr. (Michael) Merrigan was amazing. He does a great, great job with the program,” Lehr said.
Moving quickly and working hard
By spring break, she had been pulled into CoxHealth’s COVID-19 response team. They met five days per week, and worked 60 hours per week.
One of the first things they did was stop elective surgeries to stockpile protective equipment. For six weeks, the Surgery Center and Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital were closed while South only did emergency cases.
They transformed a Same Day Surgery Unit into an outpatient assessment COVID unit. This was for COVID positive patients that didn’t need to be hospitalized but might be taking a turn for the worse. The goal was to keep COVID out of the emergency room.
“We would meet them at the door. I would wear all my full gear, put a mask on them, and bring them back because it was a real quick shot from the door to the unit. A nurse would assess them and contact the physician on call. We were trying to be creative so we could have them seen by a physician, listen to their lungs, their heart and see how they’re feeling. Then we could either send them back home or say: ‘Let’s go ahead and admit you.’”
Lehr graduated in May and was promoted in June to administrative director over Surgical Services for CoxHealth in Springfield.
Hopes for the future
Through it all, one of the most heartening aspects has been seeing the medical community pull together.
“Both hospitals and the different counties have done an excellent job taking care of our community,” she said. “There was absolutely no competition. We worked together as a team. We are still working together.”
Her wish now is that the community would wear masks and stay safe as hospital personnel continue to battle COVID.
“The new normal is watching the daily census and trying to plan what our next step is going to be,” Lehr said. “Health care is not just doctors and nurses. It takes a village to run a hospital and a village of heroes we have. Every time I hear our overhead page: ‘Code Blue COVID 19,’ I stop and say a prayer for the patient and our response team staff.”