When Josselyn (White) Jones left for maternity leave back in January, she never imagined the changes that would take place by the time she returned to her job as a nurse at the Logan Regional Hospital (LRH).
At the time of her leave, the coronavirus was barely mentioned in the news. In fact, the United States didn't identify its first COVID-19 case until Jan. 21, when it was found in Washington state.
When Jones returned to work, the hospital was completely different.
Born in Fayetteville, Ark., Jones was a four-year letterwinner on Utah State's volleyball team from 2009-12. She graduated in three years, earning a bachelor's degree in exercise science in May of 2011. Jones then went on to get her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Utah in 2017, and started working at LRH right after.
The former standout volleyball player at nearby Sky View High School in Smithfield, Utah, learned the value of working together as a team to reach a common goal during her time with the Aggies. She now employs those traits with her team at the hospital.
As the nation battles COVID-19, many essential employees and health care providers are going above and beyond every day, including Jones, who is married to former Utah State football player Isaiah Jones. The couple has two girls, Tatum (2), and Sophie (3 months).
In honor of our former student-athletes who are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus around the world, Utah State Athletics has created the Q&A series: Aggie Healthcare Heroes. If you are a former USU student-athlete and are on the frontlines of the pandemic, please contact Wade Denniston at [email protected].
USU: First off, how are you doing, and how are your family and friends doing?
Jones: We are doing well. I am thankful that none of my close friends or family have had to personally experience COVID-19. However, the effects of COVID-19 are far reaching, and while nobody I know has had the virus, many of my friends and family are having to learn how to adapt to working from home, teaching their kids and in some cases, not working at all.
USU: What types of precautions are you taking in the wake of COVID-19?
Jones: Obviously, we socially distance as much as possible. The big thing for me is making sure that I don't bring anything home from the hospital. This means changing in the garage, wiping down all the work supplies I bring home, and a lot more showers (my former teammates will appreciate this). I have two young kids at home, so I really try to be vigilant about washing and sanitizing. I am also grateful for co-workers who are willing to take COVID-19 patients so those of us that are pregnant or have young babies don't have to.
USU: What has the past month or so been like for you at work?
Jones: I went on maternity leave in January when COVID-19 was a small blurb in the news. Since I have been back, the hospital is a completely different place. Regardless of the number of COVID-19 patients we have had, we still have to abide by certain precautions. We wear a mask and goggles for our entire shift, we don't allow any visitors or family members on the unit, our staffing has changed, and we have very specific protocols regarding PPE (personal protective equipment) usage and sanitization. Nursing is already an ever-evolving profession, but with COVID-19, we are learning how to adapt to new rules and regulations that are put in place daily.
USU: You, along with medical professionals working in hospitals all across the world, have been on the frontlines and have seen what most of the world has not seen. Do you have a message for the general public on the severity of what you've seen and experienced first-hand?
Jones: Fortunately, we haven't had an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 cases here in the valley. But, as evidenced by all the new protocols we are following, this virus is serious, especially in the more densely populated areas like New York and New Jersey. I think it's easy to be far away from places that have been hit hard and not truly understand the impact of COVID-19. There are real people dying and real people putting their lives on the line every day to take care of those people. And, the danger isn't limited to just healthcare workers – you have truckers, grocery store clerks and many other essential employees who put their health at risk daily.
USU: What has the battle on the frontlines been like in Cache Valley specifically?
Jones: The hardest part has been keeping up with all the changes that are happening in the hospital as we learn more about the virus and the effect that those changes have on patients. As health care workers, we want to keep our patients safe and comfortable. It's heartbreaking to have anxious or worried patients who can't have their family with them, and it's equally hard for family members to not be able to see their sick loved ones. It is also challenging to be wearing a mask and goggles where patients aren't able to see what we look like or make out our facial expressions. A simple smile isn't easy to convey anymore. Needless to say, it's an incredibly isolating time to be a patient, and that isn't lost on us. Thankfully, Intermountain has done a great job implementing alternative forms of communication, such as Facetime and Duo, that allow patients and families to talk to and see one another.
USU: From what you've seen, are people taking this pandemic as serious as they should?
Jones: I've actually been pretty impressed with people in Cache Valley, especially considering we are far away from the major COVID-19 hot spots. No, Cache Valley and even Utah may never have an overwhelmed hospital system like New York, but, for some people, what you see on TV is their reality. On the flip side, many people have lost their jobs and source of income. I would encourage compassion when engaging in conversations regarding opening up the economy or about the virus itself. Not everyone is going to be on the same page, but that doesn't make their experiences any less valid.
USU: How did your journey to becoming a registered nurse begin?
Jones: I always knew I wanted to work in health care, I just wasn't sure in what capacity. All health care workers have their place, but nurses and nursing assistants are constantly engaging with patients, and that is what drew me to the profession. I love the interactions I get to experience, as well as the challenge of a constantly changing career. Nursing is never stagnant or dull. It is also very versatile – there are so many options with one degree. I truly love my job and my co-workers (shout out to the medical floor), even in the midst of a pandemic!
USU: How did your student-athlete experience at Utah State prepare you for your role in the medical profession?
Jones: My time as an athlete at Utah State, without a doubt, made me the person I am today. Similar to sports, health care is about working as a team to reach a common goal. Competing collegiately gave me the tools to successfully engage with people and manage stressful environments. I also think you never really lose that competitive nature, and it's helped me to want to be a better, more knowledgeable nurse.
USU: What is a word of advice for people during this pandemic?
Jones: I would encourage people to continue to follow the recommendations from the CDC, especially as businesses start to open back up. Maintaining social distancing, wearing masks where appropriate and washing one's hands are simple things that can help stop the spread of the virus moving forward. I also think it's necessary for people to be aware of any comorbidities (things such as hypertension, diabetes, etc.) they might have. We all know that COVID-19 (as with other viruses and bacteria) tends to affect those with comorbidities worse than those without. The problem is that many people aren't aware they have these comorbid conditions. It's important to stay up to date with doctor visits, vaccinations, etc. The more people know about their own health, the easier it is for them to accurately assess their risk moving forward. Lastly, check in on one another. The restrictions that are currently in place can be isolating, especially for the older population. A phone call, letter or even a drive-by wave can make these challenging times a little more manageable.
USU: What part of your job is helping the fight against COVID-19?
Jones: Aside from what I have already touched on, we also try and educate people, whether that be in the community setting or in the hospital. It can be difficult for others, especially those without a medical background, to grasp the intricacies of COVID-19, and it's our job to give accurate information without spreading fear.
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