The Healthcare Executive Forum (HEF) of Western New York is very proud to recognize and award the following amazing individual as a “WNY Frontline Hero.”
Colleen Jordan: Every Day is a Different Challenge, But It’s What She Loves
“Every day during this Pandemic has been a different challenge for me, but it’s what I love,” says Colleen Jordan, one of Catholic Health’s only Long-Term Care Nurse Educators who, like many others this year, also turned into ward nurse, mentor, psychologist, admin assistant, COVID screener, and just about any staff position needed. Colleen was asked to pitch in at Catholic’s facilities like Father Baker Manor Long Term Care facility in Orchard Park as well as St. Joe’s Post-Acute Center, which is specifically designated for many Erie County COVID-19 patients. From the beginning, Colleen has been supporting those at the very front lines of Western New York’s battle against the virus. She sees her job as passing on knowledge, maintaining dignity for residents, training in proper use of PPE, quelling people’s fears, while also just being a caring nurse. Working many extra hours and weekends, with long shifts in the most difficult COVID-19 units, Colleen’s duties from early last year became something that no simple job description sheet could adequately detail.
“The first time I put on the PPE and walked through the double doors of that unit, it was very scary not knowing what to expect or exactly how I was going to keep myself and others safe”
“It started when I got a call on a Sunday in the midst of an outbreak at Father Baker Manor,” Colleen remembers. “They asked me if I would come into work, but didn’t give me any idea of what I would be doing. I wasn’t sure if I would take on patients, be educating nurses, or doing something else.” As staff were going down sick, the call went out and Colleen answered, helping to set up a comprehensive safe COVID-19 care unit within a little over 24 hours. “My primary role at Catholic has always been education, but I realized right away from the beginning that there was simply so much need that titles or past roles were no longer important. So, every day I take on whatever tasks are needed on that day,” says Colleen.
“The first time I put on the PPE and walked through the double doors of that unit, it was very scary not knowing what to expect or exactly how I was going to keep myself and others safe,” Colleen recalled. The rest of that week, she worked on the floor basically in the capacity of a staff nurse, while at the same time, training other staff that came pouring in to help out as well. Colleen quickly became an expert to turn to in the facility, even though everything about the job during the Pandemic was still fairly new to her, as it was to everyone.
The little time Colleen has these days is often spent hopping between care facilities, between wards, following outbreaks from place to place to help with infection control. “My goal is to always get staff to a place where they feel comfortable,” notes Colleen. “They have been given a lot of information and read a lot of misinformation as well, but rules change every day,” she said, meaning it was up to Colleen to stay ahead of all the daily evolving protocols. Some of Colleen’s tasks include helping with employee COVID-19 screening, training employees in N95 mask and other PPE fit testing, and generally explaining safe practices. “In long term care facilities, a melting pot of post-acute staff were given tons of education with reinforcement of old rules in addition to the introduction of a bunch of new rules. Nurse educators all work closely together as a team to make sure everyone is well prepared,” says Colleen. When asked the number of Catholic Health staff she has worked with and trained in the past year, Colleen estimated anywhere between 300 and 400 individuals. “I am glad to have the ability to help in any way, to do whatever needs to be done, no matter what it is,” she says passionately.
At one point this past year, Colleen was asked to run an IV clinic at St. Joes for predominantly non-hospitalized patients. “It was so good to see that something was working, effectively slowing down COVID symptoms and minimizing hospitalizations,” she declares with a small sense of pride. Seeing the positive effects of new treatments gave her much hope. Colleen believes, “The healthcare system’s ability to remain agile when it really matters has been a game changer for those who are at high risk.” She recalled that when one of the first people who was positive in the facility finally beat COVID and was able to go home, staff lined the halls and played the Beatles song ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ which eventually became a ritual for anyone who was able to go home or return to their rooms. “Witnessing this small, but meaningful ceremony always moves me, and definitely re-energizes my colleagues,” Colleen says.
It seems that being a supportive, positive person for others is what Colleen is all about. “Sometimes that is all we have,” she says. “Someone has to take that role and I am happy to fill it. People come to me with their concerns as a safe person to talk to; just as an ear.” Colleen’s rule of thumb is that if you get stressed or mad, take a few minutes to vent and then step up, come back, and get it done. Good advice for people facing some of the most difficult situations healthcare workers have seen in a century. “Think about the people you have helped and the people who made it through. Be mindful of not getting discouraged when there are more positive cases. When we can be together again, we will appreciate our interactions that much more,” she says. Just listening to Colleen’s wisdom and experienced calming nature, it becomes easy to understand how the hundreds she helped could somehow make it through this yearlong tragedy.
“Buffalonians all pitch in and help each other, and this was no different during COVID”
“Colleen attributes her own strength to work such long, hard hours to her supportive fiancée at home. With two homeschooled kids of 13 and 6, her fiancée’s contribution allowed her to stay late, work weekends, and keep the family together safely and healthily. Her family, in turn, learn the true meaning of sacrifice from Colleen, and everyone around her. “Buffalonians all pitch in and help each other, and this was no different during COVID,” explains Colleen. “I have a 95-year-old neighbor who had a birthday during the height of pandemic, and everyone on the block got something for him and left it on his doorstep. We can’t be together, but we can still find ways to show our love and support to each other.”
Colleen says she has learned much from all this, especially noting the changes in care, the new approaches to infection control, and how quickly research can achieve results. “It gives us all hope that we actually can move quickly when we need to. I am hopeful that this is a trend which will continue even after the Pandemic,” she says. In the meantime, Colleen has stirring praise for her colleagues along with solid advice for us all. “Everyone should thank the frontline workers and all healthcare staff for the great work they are doing. They deserve to be reminded constantly, and especially during these times,” she says. “For all of you caring for others, remember we are a team. Trust that your coworkers and managers are doing everything they can, just as you are, and the team will go very far,” Colleen encourages. “Forge ahead; this will get better!”
With heroes like Colleen embedded in our community and within our most important care facilities, there is no doubt things are already much better for us all.