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Tampa Bay healthcare workers reflect on successes of 2020 this Thanksgiving

TAMPA, Fla. — After a year full of trials, heartache and loss, gratitude and hope are still emerging. Especially from the people who have seen the worst of it.

Healthcare workers across the Tampa Bay area are reflecting on the successes of the year this Thanksgiving.

“Sometimes the crises bring out the best in individuals,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of BayCare Health System.

It’s the year nobody expected or asked for, and it’s arguably been the most challenging for healthcare workers.

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“There is no playbook for this pandemic. The last time we saw a pandemic like this was 1918,” said Brandon Bougard, Assistant Vice President of Nursing Services at AdventHealth Tampa.

But through it all, they’re remembering the big wins and the bonds.

“We really do feel like a team. I think this is probably exactly what a military unit or anybody who goes to battle feels like,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Tampa General Hospital.

Let’s take you back to the start. Mid-March, when things came to a bit of a screeching halt.

COVID-19 cases were growing, but within a matter of weeks, more than half a dozen healthcare systems in Tampa Bay teamed up to share data.

“They utilized that to make sure no one is getting hit too hard and that they’re sharing resources. It’s been really great to see that at the end of the day, we’re here to protect patients,” said Dr. Wilson.

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PPE shortages then began plaguing the nation.

”That is not something we struggle with… we have enough PPE to make sure all of our nurses and all of our staff taking care of the patients are well-covered and well-protected,” said Bougard.

And the community stepped up to help.

“We had people who just would sew masks and would just be willing to come drop it off,” said Dr. Anand.

But they didn’t just help with the PPE situation, they also took meals to healthcare workers.

“I have never seen as many meals brought to my department that I have seen in the last 9 months,” said Bougard.

Inside hospital walls, healthcare workers began working across units and even across different hospitals.

“We had physicians who had retired, and at the peak of this we didn’t know how significant it would get, but they volunteered to work in our drive-thrus to help swab individuals,” said Dr. Anand.

They stepped up where help was needed.

“You get to see the human side of everyone,” said Bougard.

And they became a bit of a family inside those hospital walls. The family became their patients’ biggest cheerleaders when they won their battle with COVID-19.

“Everyone that’s discharged home from the COVID unit, we do a big celebration, cause it’s a big deal,” said Bougard.

This Thanksgiving, they’re thankful for the support they’ve received from the community and ask that we don’t let up now.

“Please follow the public health recommendations. They really do work and they really help us feel like someone’s helping us,” said Dr. Wilson.

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Numbers are surging in other states, and they’re increasing in Florida, too.

“If people could just acknowledge that we should be concerned, but be vigilant. That’s an action we can all take because we do believe that there’s an end in sight,” said Dr. Anand.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

“The vaccine… If it’s as successful as they say, we could potentially eradicate this, which would be amazing,” said Bougard.

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