Growing up with her family in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans, Courtney Arvie was happy to find her work family at West Jefferson Medical Center and in her first job after nursing school.
"Being here is more of a family environment," Courtney said. "When I graduated from nursing school, I applied for a job, and I was like, oh my God, it's way across the river, but the patients that we see, you build a relationship. It's a family relationship, and they would rather come here than go to any other hospital."
Courtney has worked at the hospital for over 12 years. Currently she serves as the Clinical Manager of the Med Surge unit, taking care of the Westbank community. Part of her role is facilitating the operations of the unit and making sure there's enough staff to support the patients.
Challenging on a personal level
When COVID-19 hit, Courtney said it was very challenging for their unit and on a very personal level.
"We usually like to go in and talk with patients, have a conversation, see what went on for the weekend with their families, what's their long term goals, just having those day-to-day conversations and more personal contact," Courtney said. "COVID was very very challenging because we couldn't have that one-on-one contact."
It wasn't for a lack of supplies or personal protective equipment, she said.
"We had the masks, we had the body suits, but it wasn't as personal as we wanted it to be," Courtney said.
Making things more stressful were the heightened visitor restrictions during the early days of the pandemic.
"Our patients were very emotionally saddened because their families couldn't be here," Courtney said. "So we were really that main piece of the puzzle that was missing for them during that time. They were emotionally saddened by that, and it was very, very challenging for us."
When COVID hits home
Back across the River, Courtney's mother became hospitalized due to COVID-19, but Courtney knew all too well she wouldn't be able to visit and comfort her own mother.
"It was very challenging. It is one of the hardest things I had to endure in my whole entire life," Courtney said. "Initially I took some time off from work, just trying to process it, and then I realized at home I really wasn't doing anything that was helping her, and it wasn't helping my patients."
So she came back to work, and she asked God for understanding.
"How is it that I could be here with my patients, and I couldn't be there to take care of my mother?" Courtney asked. "It was hard for me to understand, and it's very heartbreaking."
She told herself if she couldn't be there for her mother, she could as least be at West Jefferson with someone else's loved one who was experiencing the same thing.
"On the day that she passed, I was actually working, but I just felt like if I can bring some type of comfort to a patient whose loved one would want to be here, I was just hoping that someone could have been there to do the same thing for my mom," Courtney said.
Vaccine offers light at the end of the tunnel
Fast-forward to 2021, things are improving at the hospital and in the unit where Courtney works.
"The numbers have dropped significantly," Courtney said. "I think the patients and the families have been more educated on the different resources that are available. I think they were alarmed initially when the vaccines came out, but I find that they will be more responsive as they see the patients that are coming in positive with COVID are not coming in as sick as they were previously."
Do it for those who can't - you may save their life
As more and more people are getting a vaccinated, Courtney hopes those who are hesitant or scared will do their research and ultimately decide to also get the vaccine.
"I think awareness and education is key for every person to have an understanding and to be able to make a sound judgment to take the vaccine," Courtney said. "I would tell them to definitely pray about it. Consider their family and friends who may be in a situation that may not allow them to take the vaccine, and they could be protecting them. They can be saving their lives. And I just tell them, I tell all my friends and family, you just say a prayer about it and let God lead you into making the right decision."
West Jefferson Medical Center's Vaccine Center staff is ready to care for the Westbank community. Be in that number, get vaccinated! Our Vaccine Center is located at 4535 Westbank Expressway, Marrero, LA 70072. We're open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10am - 3pm. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 504.290.5100 or 504.349.6824. Walk-ins are welcomed.