Should you go to physical therapy during a pandemic? What if a recent layoff means you may not be able to afford diabetes testing supplies? What’s a better option than seeking care at an emergency room?
These are just some of the questions from concerned callers who have reached out to Optum nurse case managers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Whatever the concern, nurses work to take the burden off the member. That’s their job both during a pandemic and during less stressful times. They take the time to understand the situation, listen attentively and validate the member’s feelings. The goal is to bring together support and resources and connect members to the right care at the right time. And, they’ll be ready to help as people reconnect with the health care system going forward.
Usually one week each year is dedicated to honoring the people who do this valuable work. But this year, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the American Nurses Association extended the traditional National Nurses Week and named May National Nurses Month. While the change preceded COVID-19, the pandemic has shown how important it is to show appreciation to nurses.
As this National Nurses Month comes to an end, we wanted to share the stories of three nurses whose kindness and calm advice made all the difference for callers.
Avoiding potential COVID-19 exposure
Marsha Simpkins, RN, DNP, CPNP, CCM, RN Case Manager
Greg* was working to regain mobility after being in the hospital and had a number of physical therapy (PT) visits on the calendar. When COVID-19 hit, he worried that it wasn’t a great time to be coming and going from those appointments. Nurse Marsha Simpkins fielded his call. She listened to Greg’s concerns about possible exposure to the virus. She encouraged him to check with his doctor to determine if he could reschedule. The doctor agreed that the visits could be postponed. Thanks in part to Marsha’s help, Greg is recovering at home with his wife. He’s doing doctor-recommended exercises until he can safely start formal therapy.
Offering options to avoid a months-long wait
Lynn Polzin, RN, Optum Call Center RN, HCDS
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic began, Sara* went to an emergency room (ER) for treatment for an injury. To continue her recovery, she needed to follow up with a primary care physician (PCP). However, Sara didn’t have a PCP. She learned she may need to wait months to see one. Not knowing what to do next, and in tears from frustration, she called Optum. Nurse Lynn Polzin took her call. She listened and discussed possible options, including Virtual Visits, which allows patients to connect with providers through websites, phones or mobile apps. Sara had thought the ER was her only choice for care. Lynn helped her understand she had alternatives. Lynn was also able to schedule future check-in calls to help Sara access care.
Helping connect patients with medicine, support
Deanna Harder, RN, BSN, Case Manager RN
Nurse Deanna Harder remembers the day Margaret* called. Margaret had been laid off from her job because of COVID-19. Without financial resources, she could no longer afford the testing strips and lancets she uses to check her blood glucose levels. Deanna steered Margaret toward financial help; she also connected her to a social worker who helped order the supplies Margaret needs to manage her diabetes.
In a previous blog post, we featured the stories of three other nurses who found ways to make life a little easier for members who reached out. Click here to read their stories.
*The names of Greg, Sara and Margaret have been changed to protect the members’ identities.