Home care and hospice nurses: The unsung heroes

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Home care and hospice nurse Isabelle Flores says: "I can't speak for GovGuam employees because I am in the private sector, but we're not getting double pay at HSP. I am just grateful to be employed and still receiving a paycheck."

We have heard the experiences of nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic, those putting their health at risk in hospitals and clinics throughout the island. But there is a group of nurses on the frontlines that are often overlooked…they are the nurses who care for our island’s vulnerable and perform home care and hospice services.

Isabelle Flores is a registered nurse with HSP. She provides home and hospice care to over 25 elderly patients a week. Many of her patients have been discharged from the hospital and require continued care at home. She is one of many nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic.

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“When this first started and we first went into a state of emergency, it was pretty much scary for anybody in the health care setting, especially for us because we care for some of the most vulnerable people. All our patients are elderly and they have multiple long-term illnesses. So when we first started this, we were thinking how are we going to provide care but at the same time protect our patients because there was this stay at home order but we are going home to home,” Flores said.

Some patients and their families opted to provide care themselves while others needed continued home health care. Because of this, home care nurses take the recommended measures in preventing the spread of the coronavirus when they come in contact with their patients.

“At the end of the day, some of these people really do need care to be provided despite the risk of exposure,” Flores said.

For home care and hospice nurses, the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is increased as they often walk into a home setting not really knowing who their patient has come in contact with. In fact, Flores was recently exposed to a COVID positive patient.

When you go into nursing, there’s always going to be a risk of exposure to all these different types of infectious diseases. But once you start in-home care, you build such a strong relationship with your patients and it’s part of the job. You just got to do what you can to protect yourself and your family,” Flores said.

She added: “At first, when I found out that the patient had tested positive, I was a little like … oh man … but I was wearing all my gear and you know you just got to trust that you protected yourself.”

Flores says nurses can’t back down because they are scared and nurses must rise to the occasion because their patients depend on them. After her two weeks in quarantine with no symptoms, Flores got back to work.

“You definitely do become more hyper-aware of … okay, I am going into this home. But then you just have to calm yourself down because you’ve got to resume business as usual and you’ve got to go out and take care of the people and just trust in the recommendations that you received to protect yourself and keep you safe. As a nurse, you can’t let the fear of getting infected hold you back from doing your work because we have such a need here,” Flores said.

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