926th Wing Airman cares for patients during pandemic

  • Published
  • By Natalie Stanley
  • 926th Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — “The world has changed, but the core of our nurses have not. Our daily lives have been upended, but our nurses stand up, show up and give patients the compassion and care they need and deserve,” HCA Today Blog.


Healthcare workers are on the frontline as the world battles COVID-19. Communities are rallying behind their nurses and doctors during a time when they need support and resiliency the most.


Their daily care of those most vulnerable deserves to be recognized and shared.


For Citizen Airmen and registered nurse, Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Ramirez, the reality of being on the frontline fight against COVID-19 has been an emotional experience in a career she is proud of.  


“Two things I always knew I was going to do growing up: go into the Air Force and be in the medical field,” she said. “I love helping people and it just felt like what I needed to do.”


Ramirez, who comes from a military family, works as a nurse in a medical surgical/neuropsychiatry unit in Las Vegas, Nevada and is an Aerospace Medical Technician with the 926th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada.


As a civilian nurse during a pandemic, Ramirez said she has experienced a level of uncertainty as the country has worked to control the spread of COVID-19.  


She said as hospitals were initially closing down some of their units, there was a lot of tension in the workplace. For Ramirez, the staff shortage has also changed her daily work schedule.


“Everyday that I go to work, I do not know if I will be working on my regular floor or if I will be floated to our COVID floor,” she said. 


One of the major concerns for Ramirez, whether she is on her regular floor or the COVID floor, has been a shortage of personal protective equipment.


“We have a severe shortage (like the rest of the nation) on masks, gowns and cleaning solutions,” she said. “We are only allowed one surgical mask per day unless it is soiled.”


She said that many of the hospital workers have been fortunate enough to have their own additional PPE they have been authorized to wear.


During her shifts on the COVID floor she receives a N95 mask that is used for the entire week. She puts her name on a bag and places the mask inside at the end of every shift. The mask is then sanitized and reused again the following shift.


Despite PPE shortages, she said her hospital has implemented safety measures, starting at the beginning of every shift to increase the health safety of the hospital staff.


“The biggest precaution the hospital has taken is definitely the prescreening prior to starting my shift,” Ramirez said. 


She said everyone is required to enter and exit out of the same door. Her temperature is taken and a series of questions are asked to determine the status of her health that day. Once she is deemed healthy to work for the day she receives a sticker with the date on it so others know she has been prescreened.


“I am required to sanitize my hands and sign out for my mask to keep for my entire shift,” she said. 


Any hospital worker that is showing symptoms of COVID is required to stay home and advised to get tested to rule out the possibility of infection. Those who have potentially been exposed while at work due to a positive patient are also required to take their temperatures twice a day, morning and night, for 14 days.


Through all the stress and uncertainty Ramirez said there have been positive moments throughout that keeps her going. She has been present through hospitalized patients coming in COVID positive and leaving COVID negative and has witnessed coworkers rallying around each other.


“Recently we had an employee who was positive and when he was released from the hospital we formed an assembly line cheering him on for winning his fight,” she said. “It definitely lifted his spirits, as well as the staff.” 


Also, the outpouring of support nurses and doctors are experiencing during COVID-19 has been nothing short of inspiring to Ramirez. She said the local community has been delivering food daily to ensure they are fed and citizens have been sewing masks and hair coverings to help healthcare workers have an extra bit of protection while working their shifts.


“We have definitely felt the love and I appreciate all of those who are thinking of us during these times,” she said.