Nicole Spaldo lives in Flanders and agreed to be interviewed for our focus on Essential Workers. Nicole holds a Bachelor’s Degree and a Masters Degree from the University of Scranton and lives with her husband Ryan and daughter Daphne.
Nicole, please tell us what you do.I am an Occupational Therapist for Atlantic Health Services. I visit peoples’ homes and work with patients to help them develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. I work very close to patients and sometimes have to physically help them with things such as getting out of bed.
How have your home visits changed since the start of the pandemic?When the lockdowns started and the schools closed in mid-March, there were no changes in our visits and throughout March there was no protective equipment provided. Now however, we are provided with gloves and masks that we must wear, and goggles and gowns when we are with COVID19 patients. I need to remove these in a very careful way, sometimes in people’s garages or in the street – even in the pouring rain. I use sanitizer on everything and cover my car seat with a large garbage bag for easier cleaning. I leave my personal phone and laptop in my SUV, and now do all my follow-up reporting at home.
How else has your work changed?Because elective surgeries have been suspended, our census has dropped and there are less home visits for us to do. So, our company has given us assignments in the hospital to perform jobs such as cleaning elevators, transporting patients and even bringing those who have died to the morgue.
What do you want people to know about healthcare workers such as yourself?It is great to see the signs of support and free meals in the hospitals. However, healthcare workers in the field are not getting the same level of recognition and support. Our jobs are extremely stressful, we need to continue to work to support our families, and we are making personal sacrifices to keep our patients safe.
Do you support Governor Murphy’s restrictions and what else can be done?Governor Murphy is doing a great job. And the community has helped with things such as the donations of face shields from the high school that Shelly Morningstar helped bring to Atlantic Health. However, there are two important things missing. People need to know how to care for themselves such as how to properly remove and care for masks and gloves. And, people need to keep themselves well by calling for home health services by a skilled nurse if they do not want to go first to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Our employer is giving us “pandemic pay”, which is a temporary increase in our pay. However, we don’t see this ending soon and what we need now is flexibility in our work schedule to care for our mental health and our families.
The interview with Nicole Spaldo was conducted by Andy Meissner on April 22.