Baron O’Field normally works behind the scenes as a certified surgical technologist, but now, he's a door screener.
O'Field has been tasked with making sure anyone entering Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, does not have a temperature or symptoms of COVID-19.
“They are shifting nurses to other departments and they are being cross-trained, so when this hits, people will know what to do,” said O’Field. “Everybody’s learning new roles.”
As a certified surgical technologist, or scrub nurse, O’Field usually gets things set up for surgeries and helps the doctors and staff with operations. He had planned to return to Tahlequah to finish his university degree when he learned about the Hastings surg tech program.
“I researched it and thought it was interesting. I’ve been doing it ever since; I never looked back,” he said.
After graduating from the program in 2013, O’Field went straight to work at Hastings – the hospital in which he was born. At the end of 2014, he left to be a contractor and traveled to other states until the end of 2016.
“My family is from here, and I wanted to apply skills I had learned on the road at Hastings,” he said. “I see people I grew up with and know. It’s cool to give back to the community in that way.”
Due to the shutdown of elective surgeries in the state, O’Field hasn't been assisting with many surgeries.
“It’s interesting being on the front lines,” he said. “I work with people from different departments whom I normally don’t see. It’s interesting seeing the camaraderie with everybody working together.”
He said those coming into the facility have been understanding about new protocols, including the limit on visitors and the need for social distancing.
“We have to explain that although you want to come in and support your family or friends, it’s not just for the patient’s safety; it helps protect you,” said O’Field.
One aspect O’Field is not used to is hearing gratitude from the public.
“It’s nice to hear people say, ‘Thank you’ and they want you to be safe. They are thankful for what we do,” he said.
So far, O’Field hasn’t had to worry about having the proper equipment to use on the job.
“We’re given what’s needed. There’s always been a supply,” he said. “I wear disposable scrubs, so at the end of the shift, I tear them off and throw them away.”
He also wears masks and a face shield each shift, and wipes down everything.
"We take the same precautions for everybody who comes in,” O’Field said. “I’m mindful of what I touch and what the patient may have touched."
While some may be putting on a brave face right now, O’Field said everyone is generally in a good mood.
“As health care workers, we know what we’re getting into,” said O’Field. “When I get to work, I know we are there for the same reason – we’re there to take care of people. That’s what keeps us going.”
O’Field has family in Tahlequah – including his mom; his wife, Tesina; and their 2-year-old son, Mason. He said his family calls and texts him more often these days.
“My mom calls me every night to ask how I am physically and mentally. They want to make sure I’m not too stressed or am feeling OK,” he said. “I worry about my son sometimes. When I leave the hospital, I make sure I don’t track anything out. I do the best I can.”