It’s often said that stressful situations can bring out either the best or the worst in people. For Kimball Health Services Clinic Director Jessica Webb, it’s been a case of the best.
Webb, who wears multiple hats at KHS including clinic director and outpatient services manager, had the title of emergency preparedness coordinator added to her duties in March. That was about the time the first cases of COVID-19 began popping up in Kimball.
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Early on, about the only change the public noticed with hospital operations was the addition of a US Army tent for processing COVID tests. But inside the building, Webb and many other KHS staff were busily gearing up for a challenge they’d trained for, but never really experienced first-hand.
Those challenges included setting up a negative pressure rooms to evaluate suspected COVID patients, requiring PPE (personal protective equipment) training for the medical staff to safely care for patients, increasing the emphasis on infection prevention, managing medical supply shortages, establishing a COVID hotline to discuss possible symptoms, and setting up a new telehealth service so patients could talk to their health provider from home for visits that don’t require in-office care, and offering COVID swab testing just east of the hospital to those in a line of cars that sometimes stretched down the street.
“It has definitely been a busy and challenging year, especially with the multitude of changes that happen almost daily,” Webb said.
So busy and challenging, in fact, that one day KHS tested 40 patients and over half of them were COVID positive.
Many times it was Webb or fellow nurse Laura Bateman who called those patients with their test results and advice on how to proceed, whether it was self-quarantining, managing mild symptoms or in rare cases, returning to the hospital to be transferred to a COVID unit at another facility.
Webb’s work was recently recognized by her peers and the members of the hospital’s Employee Outreach Committee, who voted for her to receive the KHS Employee of the Year award. The committee gives the award after comparing employee of the month nominations submitted by staff throughout the year.
“I am nominating Jess for her leadership and dedication to making sure that everything is being taken care of during this crazy time with COVID-19,” read the award nomination from Donovan Cashler, a member of the hospital’s Information Systems Department. “She has had a lot dropped onto her plate but continues to make sure KHS is prepared and things are handled.”
With a modesty that’s typical of her personality, she deflects credit for the award to others who are a part of the COVID response team at KHS.
“I feel multiple people have stepped up to make it work throughout the year especially Mike Downey (purchasing), Troy Kurz (facilities), Jen Greenwood (laboratory), Cheryl Delaplane (nursing) and the other department heads that have been willing to change processes as we go. It feels good to be recognized for all the hard work we’ve done this year,” Webb said.
But at the same time, Webb recognizes there’s more to do.
“Even as the cases begin to slow, we will continue to test patients,” Webb said. “We’re working our way down the age groups with scheduling vaccination appointments as more vaccine becomes available.”
“Although the COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against the virus, it’s just one layer of protection,” she added. “Please keep wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying socially distant to help put this thing behind us.”