Nikki Mehlhaf is the director of nursing at Oakview Terrace and is featured in this week's 5-Minute Interview. Because of how important it is, the Courier is republishing it here.
What’s your message to people who aren’t taking this seriously?
I just really want to speak to the social contact side of things. If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 today, would you be able to go back and tell everybody who you had close contact with about it? If you can’t, you’ve been to too many places.
Should people go to the grocery store?
Yes, they should. It’s hard to avoid. But they should be mindful of that six feet of separation, they should get what they need and get out.
What is the mood like inside the nursing home?
It’s actually awesome. Our staff has really stepped up and are doing a great job of trying to keep the residents entertained and thinking of new activities for them. The staff morale has been very good. With the residents, you can tell it’s taking a toll on them not being able to see their loved ones, but thank goodness for telephones. Right now we’re telling the staff that, during this time, you are their family, so treat them like family.
As somebody in the health care industry, what has it been like to watch the last two weeks transpire?
Surreal is the word. I actually asked my kids the other day if I was dreaming — if this was just a bad dream. It has taken my position of director of nursing to a different level. I have to be hyper-vigilant for everyone, staff and residents included, as well as myself, just to make sure everybody is following the right protocol both in and out of the facility.
What have staff meetings been like for you?
At the nursing home we have a daily meeting every morning where we keep everybody updated on the latest information. If something new comes down the pike, I will have an afternoon meeting with the staff, as well. I often make sure, for the night shift, I either stay late or am in touch with the charge nurse to pass along important messages.
The social distancing thing has gotten a lot of headlines. What else should people be doing?
Washing their hands; that’s huge. Being aware of high-touch surfaces like gas pump and doorknobs, the credit card machines to punch your numbers in.
What are you hearing in terms of the longevity of this thing?
I think it’s going to go on for a while, especially in terms of flattening the curve.
That term has been used a lot. Explain what “flattening the curve” means.
It means slowing down the progression of the illness so we don’t have a major spike all at once and overwhelm the health care system. If it’s going to come, we want it to be a trickle effect instead of a flood effect. It just gives the health care systems a chance to recuperate in-between treating patients.
You’re taking care of yourself?
Yes. Have to.