BOSTON (CBS) — These nurses are making what are sometimes life-changing calls: they are contacting patients who were swabbed at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s testing sites and tested positive for the coronavirus.
“You can imagine how anxious people are to get their results,” said Jonna Dube, a registered nurse who heads up a triage that informs patients on test results.
“Make sure that you’re using a separate bathroom,” said one nurse on the phone.
“You definitely can’t return to work,” said another.
Across the room, another said, “stay inside for seven days.”
“You’re still testing positive,” said a nurse into her phone. She’s among dozens whose departments were largely shut down by the virus, so they’re now doing a different job.
“People are nervous about their families,” said nurse practitioner Maureen Dodakian. “We stress to them that any contacts that they have that are close, family members need to quarantine.”
Experts say the job of these nurses will eventually allow life to return to normal. The calls are the first step in the process known as contact tracing.
“So if he’s touching the television remote and then you pick it up, and then he picks it up, that’s how it gets spread,” said a nurse talking with a patient who tested positive. She and her coworkers have handled more than 17,000 calls, and have delivered test results to more than 6,100 patients. So far, about 19% have been positive.
They also take calls from people who want to find out if they fit the criteria to be tested. “If we don’t test them, we’ll tell them, you know, we’ll call you back the next day,” said primary care nurse Luann Bousquet. She said it’s important to check back because symptoms and circumstances can change quickly.
They’re working on the concept that a critical conversation right now might prevent another infection tomorrow.
“They’re not at the bedside,” said Dube. “But they’ve done a huge amount of work to prevent this virus from spreading.”