Kansas Underwood traveled to NYC with 50 other medical personnel, including her 21-year-old son, to treat COVID-19 patients.
After the COVID-19 pandemic caused school closures and sports season cancellations in mid-March, trainers in the Cayuga Health System Sports Medicine Clinic realized they had to call an audible.
Because of a decrease in demand for sports medicine, Adrian Western, the director of sports medicine and school health, and athletic trainers shifted their roles so they would work at the COVID-19 sampling site at The Shops at Ithaca Mall parking lot.
“Although our staff didn’t go to their typical job, they realized there was a need and they stepped up,” said Western, of Brooktondale.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to shift their job roles during the past few months.
Nowhere has this become more apparent than within health care.
Prior to the pandemic, Western oversaw athletic training, sports medicine and health services to multiple high schools and colleges around the region. Now, his focus is ensuring an efficient and high-quality mechanism for COVID testing and sampling.
Athletic trainers Elyse Moran, 31, of Brooktondale, and Nicole Humpf, 31, of Cortland, have also been routed to the Cayuga Health System sampling site to help with the pandemic response. They have been helping with much of the administrative side by greeting patients, giving them instructions, answering any questions, ensuring a consistent message, and helping them register for on-site testing.
Early on, Western had to adjust to the new landscape.
“This was when there was a lot of unknown,” Western said. “It’s an unprecedented time. I’ve had to be flexible.
“I’ve received directives from the governor and the division of health, but a lot of what I’ve had to do is adapt to is an ever-changing landscape.”
But he quickly noticed how versatile he could be in this new domain.
“A lot of the things I learned in sports medicine translated very well, whether it was working outdoors, thinking on the fly, or making changes,” Western said. “We’re trying to provide a service and make sure they feel comfortable with everything that happens to them.”
Kristina Gambitta, director of the Neuroscience Service Line at Cayuga Medical Center, has also worked at the sampling site.
Gambitta, of Cortland, works as a lead facilitator and administrator at the sampling site as well as a lead facilitator at regional nursing homes. In these roles, she collects samples, trains staff and works as a manager at the sampling site.
Gambitta said she adjusted very quickly into her new role because of transferable skills she brought from her experience working in the healthcare field. Gambitta has been a nursing administrator for 15 years and has spent some of this time tasked with operations, training staff, managing and supervising.
“It wasn’t that big of a stretch,” Gambitta said. “This is different because we deal with virus, but essentially it is the same as far as training people, scheduling, keeping people safe, and making sure they have tools and resources they need.”
Before the coronavirus became an issue in New York state, Gambitta was developing an expansion plan for Cayuga Health’s pain and neuroscience services. She then had to postpone the planning of the expansion because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since resumed planning for the expansion.
“What will most likely happen is I will see shift in focus in spending more time developing the key program and then we may — if there is another surge in fall — we may experience another temporary shutdown,” Gambitta said. “We may not see as many patients and services may not be at same level, and we may be more in the COVID-19 world.”
“It’s hard to predict. Until we have a vaccine, I think this will be our reality for a while.”
“As to when everything will be back to normal, we’re living in a new normal and things are changing week to week,” Western said. “We’re looking at the fall schedule for the sports season and we’re looking at the outlook off sports seasons. A lot of it is unknown.”
“We will have to see what it looks like during the summer, make sure the curve is flat, and see what testing looks like and what sports medicine will look like. I feel confident we will live in new normal and still provide excellent services to the sports entities we provide services to.”
Whether it’s trainers or neurology services directors who are shifting roles during the pandemic, Cayuga Medical professionals have proven to be adaptable over the past few months and may continue to be versatile for whatever lies ahead.
“There’s a lot of folks stepping up in different roles in the healthcare system,” Western said. “It makes me feel so jazzed up to see different people from different departments are going into different roles. It makes me really proud to work for this organization.”
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