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“The week has actually been getting a little better,” says Dennis Lunde, Paramedic and EMS Clinical Services Supervisor at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
An influx of FEMA assets bringing support from all over the country is really helpful to the EMS Department of Hackensack University Medical Center. The arrival of backup, paired with open communication with team members and the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), is keeping crew morale high.
“Our network is doing a wonderful job at providing updated information when it comes to protecting ourselves and acquiring the PPE that we need,” said Lunde. “Our infection control processes and maintaining our PPE supplies have been our focus to keep our team safe.”
Lunde, who has been in the EMS field for more than 23 years, began his career in the NYC Metro area. He was a responder for the 9/11 attack and illustrates the threat to first responders through that lens. “After 9/11, everybody was wearing respirators and protective gear against the dust,” shares Lunde. “COVID-19 presents a similar risk to first responders.”
What we know about COVID-19 is constantly changing. For this reason, Lunde and the EMS team at Hackensack University Medical Center are always refining cleaning protocols and regimens. “We're more rigorous, always looking to find ways to better protect ourselves and our patients. As a provider, I’m rigorous about using PPE when treating patients, and then as an administrator, I also have the responsibility to keep our teams safe,” said Lunde.
After working with patients, first responders worry about protecting their loved ones when they return home. For Lunde, reducing the risk for his family means isolating from his daughter. They, like many others, utilize video chatting technology to stay connected. While the sacrifice is worth it to protect her and his other family members, it is challenging.
This type of challenge creates commonality among first responders. They are overcoming heavy call volume, family separations, challenges with child care, and a lack of downtime. But the community support has been tremendous. And the appreciation is welcome.
“Many people don’t understand what EMS is and what we do. Our communities are starting to realize that first responders are also healthcare heroes. That is a breath of fresh air,” says Lunde. “I see that across the country people are supporting each other and the first responders that are out in the community, similar to the support we received after September 11th.”
When asked what the community can do to help, beyond much-appreciated meals and other donations of support, Lunde’s response is direct and simple: “Continue with the social distancing. Continue with good hand hygiene and protecting yourself against the transmission of the virus.” And that keeps all of us safer. #StrongerTogether