As you might imagine, the past few weeks have been full of changes for the Watermark Health team. We wanted to share with you a few updates as to what has changed, and what hasn't, for our staff, clinics, and volunteers.
What's happening at our Clinics
At this time, both our Plano and Skillman clinics remain open, seeing patients and tending to their physical and spiritual needs. It is our aim to stay mission true to the things we've done the past 7 years- help keep acute care issues out of our city's ERs while ministering to the spiritual needs of the community.
While we have stayed mission true, we've adjusted our methods and will continue to do so as the needs in the city change. As of now, because of the exposure risk of COVID-19, these are the ways we've adjusted our processes to limit risk as much as possible while still meeting key needs:
We've re-routed all sick visits (upper respiratory symptoms) to happen through a fast track where they can wait in their cars until we're ready to see them. Most of the visit occurs outdoors or over telemedicine platforms (which limits exposure), and if a patient needs to be brought indoors, they are limited to one room right by our entrance. We've also asked our patients to call before coming to the clinics so we can help them navigate if it is best for them to stay home. This limits the risk that sick patients can spread any virus, COVID-19 or otherwise, to others in the building while still making sure those patients get the care and attention needed for their symptoms.
Over the past few weeks we've increased PPE usage for both patients and staff/volunteers to stay ahead of the increased exposure risk as communal spreading increased. As of today, anyone on site is in a surgical mask (including patients). Those seeing sick patients are in surgical masks and face shields if they're outside with the patient, as well as n95 respirators if they're inside with the patient. We also change gloves between each patient visit and practice diligent decontamination of spaces and hand washing after each visit and periodically throughout the day.
We've limited volunteers on site to only nurses that are out working at other medical facilities. Because shelter in place measures are making a positive impact on the spread of COVID-19 we do not want to bring individuals that would otherwise be sheltering in place out of their homes at this time. While we greatly miss our volunteers, we know it's best for most of them to stay home. We're currently running with a skeleton crew of mostly staff and one or two volunteer nurses a day that work in the ICUs and ERs already.
Overall, patient volumes have decreased the last two weeks as people are taking "shelter in place" seriously. This is good! The patients we have seen are individuals that need to be taken care of so their issues don't escalate to ER visits. This has included rashes, UTIs, minor trauma and injuries, in addition to the upper respiratory symptoms. While we serve this population with our skeleton crew, we've been encouraged that God brings the right people to our doors. We're meeting their tangible needs and getting to continue to minister to everything else going on in their world. For the last seven years, we've engaged spiritually with every single patient that walks through our doors. COVID-19 has not changed that.
As time goes on and the needs continue to change, we'll continue to evaluate the gaps in the healthcare system and consider how we can step in to uniquely serve our city and nation at this time. In the immediate future, if volumes increase we're prepared to take more of our process to telemedicine and tent visits outdoors.
The Unique Needs of Our Patients
Our clinics serve the uninsured and underinsured. Often-times individuals that fall into these categories are also under-resourced in other ways. We have met many individuals that have lost jobs or had hours scaled back in the past few weeks. While this difficulty is not unique to our patients and many others around the world are in a similar spot, the individuals we encounter do not have savings accounts or kitchens stocked up with the margin needed to weather a storm. While we provide medical and spiritual care, we've also been able to provide them with some tangible resources to bless them as they face a difficult season. Because of the generous donations of church members, this has included:
Care packages to help entertain kids at home that are out of school
Food items to help those that weren't able to stock up before grocery stores were overrun
Thermometers, hand sanitizer, and tissues for those with sick symptoms
Easter baskets with Watermark Easter service invites to bring a smile and blessing to families
Connections with Watermark ministries such as Careers in Motion, Regen, and Refuge to help with a support system walking through times of loss and difficulty
If you'd like to continue to resource our team in this way, this amazon wish list will continue to be updated based on existing needs with ways to support patients and medical professionals in the ICUs and Hospitals during this time.
How we're serving our volunteers and the medical community
While we've told most of our volunteers to stay home, we haven't slowed down in our desire or time spent encouraging, equipping, and shepherding them. Just like other ministries we've gotten creative with ways to put relevant content and connection points in front of our volunteers through digital means. We are also acutely aware that many of our 250 volunteers are medical professionals, serving in the ICUs, ERs, and ambulances that are caring for COVID-19 positive patients. Because of that, and our general ability to empathize with the healthcare community right now, we're working on weekly providing content to shepherd medical professionals in the midst of this crisis. You can find that content here on our website, on our facebook account, or instagram. This conversation with Nathan Wagnon on his military experience and how to handle crisis/war in a God-honoring way is one example of ways we're hoping to help medical professionals stay emotionally and spiritually healthy during this time.
We've also been able to bless some of the healthcare workers we know of on the frontlines with care packages supplied by members of the local church. The photos below capture some of the words of gratitude from our nurses that are working in the ICUs in DFW. They shared these words of gratitude on social media as the gifts you supplied showed up on their front porch. If you donated to these gift bags, be encouraged- they are blessing the believers on the frontlines!
If you'd like to continue to resource our team so we can provide for healthcare workers in this way, this amazon wish list will continue to be updated based on existing needs.
If you know a healthcare worker who goes to Watermark and is not yet in our network, encourage them to fill out this form.
How the Church is Helping
The members of Watermark Community Church have continued to take excellent care of our clinics. We've been so grateful to have lunches, take home meals, and treats delivered throughout the week. Some of our favorites have come with encouragement from young kiddos (see photos below for examples of their artwork). You can sign up for meals for Skillman Clinic here or Plano Clinic here.
Church members are also the ones dropping off the items for us to bless patients and healthcare workers with, described above. We are so grateful and appreciate your continued support and prayers!
What we're seeing God do
These past few weeks, God has continued to show off. We have been so blessed by the church's support. Your prayers and encouragement are well received.
Our team is aware that we have been blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12). What we have been given, we're choosing to use to serve others. Any excess we have in terms of PPE, food, gifts for kids, medical expertise, energy, good attitude- we see as an opportunity to bless others around us. We are not interested in building storehouses during this time, but finding ways to share our abundance of resource and grace with those experiencing lack at this time. We have loved getting to be generous on behalf of Watermark members- sending your gifts home with others that are truly grateful to receive them.
In the midst of such a scary and unsure time, God is clearly at work in the lives of those around us. Our patients are more open than ever to gospel conversations. We've had multiple individuals meet Christ inside our clinics these past few weeks, and many more find peace and reassurance as they're reminded of truths in scripture. For the last seven years we have engaged spiritually with every single patient. That hasn't changed because of COVID-19.
We've also been incredibly encouraged by how God has prepared us in advance for these days. Our team is constantly reflecting on all that God has done to allow us to respond to COVID-19 like we have. From bringing the right people on staff at the right time, to facility decisions months ago that we didn't realize would benefit us now, to the mission and vision he gave us years ago to even launch clinics like these. We are well poised to continue to flex and respond to COVID-19 and the changing face of the healthcare system. Pray with us that God would continue to provide the wisdom of James 3:13-18 to our team as we navigate the weeks and months to come.
We are willing, Lord continue to send us!