This Is Rutherford
This is Allyson Kubs
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photos submitted by Allyson Kubs
For many years, Allyson Kubs has juggled her nursing career and motherhood, however, due to the current pandemic crisis, she is working even harder to juggle it all. With increased and even more stressful hours at work, motherhood, and virtual learning with her kindergartener, she is facing new challenges. In addition, Allyson and her husband, Wayne, are working hard to keep their children, two girls ages 6 and 4, safe since they are both first responders. This is Rutherford had the opportunity to learn more about Allyson and her passion for nursing.
TIR: What hospital do you work at? Allyson Kubs: I work for Atlantic Health, which is the system of hospitals affiliated with Morristown Medical Center. I treat mostly critical and unstable COVID patients and transport them between hospitals as both the patient's and the hospital's needs/capabilities change.
TIR: How did your hospital prepare for coronavirus cases? AK: Atlantic Health did an awesome job early in the pandemic, converting many units to COVID-only units, adding extra ICUs, etc. They really prepared us for what we were about to encounter. Everything from creating more negative-airflow rooms to limit exposure, to having clogs in the ICUs to keep shoes clean…a lot was considered.
TIR: What kind of PPE (personal protective equipment) do you wear? Is there a shortage? AK: Overall, I think there is definitely a shortage. There are proven decontamination services that allow us to wear N95s for multiple shifts, and a lot of hospitals are partaking in that. I haven’t personally had any issues, my employer seems to really care that we feel safe and protected at work.
TIR: What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing at work right now? AK: The biggest challenges at work are making sure we take all the appropriate measures to be physically protected, adjusting to the changing protocols, and handling the emotional side of it all. When you’re caring for a critical patient, it’s important to be very conscious of your surroundings and of any possible way you can be exposed. This virus is very contagious, very easy to contract, and has the potential to get you very sick. Something as simple as the way you take off a gown, gloves, a mask, face-shield, etc., really matters.
In terms of protocols, hospitals change policies/procedures sometimes daily, as they find procedures that work, methods that limit exposure, and ways to improve communication. With patient transport, we deal with many different units and hospitals, and following all the changes is challenging.
Emotionally, this is something the healthcare system hasn’t dealt with before, at least in our lifetimes. We see a lot of very sick patients. As a nurse, it’s important to have a good support system at home and work to deal with you as you deal with tough cases and the acuity level of the current patient population. As far as challenges at home, it’s not easy to come home from a shift treating these patients and immediately turn into a kindergarten teacher and mom.
TIR: What can lay people do to best support healthcare workers at this time? AK: Just be understanding, and support us. There is only so much the media can report and everyone will report it differently. Just know that we are doing the best we can and be there for the healthcare providers in your own life that may need a quick smile here and there.
TIR: You have lived in Rutherford for ten years and your husband has lived in Rutherford his whole life. What have you seen in your community or at work that brings you hope? AK: Just how much people care. People stuck at home started making masks and surgical caps and many donated supplies and thank you cards. At work, a nurse practitioner arranged #ShareSnacksNotCOVID, which organizes meal and snack delivery to the units of hospitals, and it’s been awesome to see so many businesses (both big and small) contribute to that.
TIR: As someone who is putting her life on the line each day, how do you remain motivated and driven to take care of the patients that enter the hospital? AK: Though I do feel protected at work, no matter how well you protect yourself, there is always a risk for exposure. Part of my motivation is from my colleagues at work, we really care about each other and know we will get through this together. We have definitely bonded during this pandemic. I get weekly calls from my management team making sure we are in good shape both emotionally and physically. Because of how sick these patients are that we see in the ICUs and ERs, bringing this virus home will always be a big fear. But that fear is a great motivator to be as close to perfect as possible with protection and decontamination procedures. Some of these sick patients have significant medical histories, but some don’t. Some patients may have been old and sick, but some were young and healthy. When you treat a patient who is actively dying from a virus, you definitely don’t want to bring that virus home.
But I’m in this profession to help people (as cliche as that sounds), and if there was ever a time when helping people was the most important, it’s now. So we do what we can to help as many people as we can, and just try to protect ourselves the best we can in the process.
TIR: What do you want people to understand about protecting their health and their families’ health during this time? AK: Do what you can to limit exposure. Obviously, malls and places with a lot of interpersonal contact are closed, and parties aren’t allowed, but just be safe. If you don’t have to go to the store, don’t. If you do, use caution. Most importantly, wash your hands. My husband works as a Bergen County Sheriff's Officer and a paramedic for Hackensack University Medical Center and we have mutual respect for each other. We both deal with different aspects of the pandemic. It’s important to just be there for each other, and do our best not to bring it home to our family. My advice for the spouses and family members of healthcare workers is to just provide positivity and be there for them when they need it.