Kris Maines has always had what he calls “an affinity” for hospitals since his mom, a nurse, took him to work with her when he was younger.
Now Maines, who became a registered nurse and works at Huntington Hospital, is seeing his love for his own career tested in the fire of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A very close friend of mine had an elderly loved one whom I knew very well pass away from COVID-19 at Huntington while I was working the night shift in another unit,” recalled the 30-year-old Maines, who has lived in South Pasadena since he was in the 5th grade.
“I found out the following day … Knowing her family couldn’t be there during her final days pains me quite a bit, but knowing the quality of nursing staff she had caring for her does some to alleviate my sorrow. I also feel an immense sense of gratitude in knowing that I practice in the same community I was raised in, same hospital I was born in, and how lucky [I was] to have been in the same building when she died.”
Maines responded to my written questions, which gave him time to provide thoughtful answers and still deal with his increasingly hectic nursing schedule. Thoughtful and complete is what I got. Hopefully, they provide a better picture of what nurses, doctors and staff are up against on a daily basis.
Huntington Hospital is in nearby Pasadena, but it is where most of us end up when we call 911. Visitors are not allowed to visit COVID patients, and there have been many stories about nurses and doctors holding up telephones or iPads so loved ones could communicate or say goodbye.
Maines said that on average he has four patients on COVID-19 units; earlier, the average was five. This decline, he noted, is misleading, since it partly reflects the increased effort required for each patient because of PPE — protective gear — procedures and rounds.
“It is quite demanding,” he said.
The average patient age, Maines said, has fluctuated as the virus affected different demographics at different times. On some shifts, he would have patients in the 80s and older, while on other shifts all would be 40-60.
Working with a COVID patient can be similar to helping another patient in that both need good care and affection. The difference is that with this virus, medical people are learning as they go in some cases.
“I think in general we need more compassion as we collectively battle this disease through the duration of the epidemic,” he said.
Maines volunteered at Huntington in high school and again while going to Pasadena City College to get his associate degree. He got his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from the University of North Dakota in 2016.
Now, he is back working as a colleague at the hospital that he loves.
And he shares the joys and hardships of working in the COVID era.
“Our hospital nurses, physicians and employees have shown tireless commitment to providing compassionate care during the pandemic. Every day, caregivers like Kris put the health and safety of our communities first, showing up for their communities and each other,” said Gloria Sanchez, chief nurse officer and senior vice president for Huntington. “Our incredible staff are all truly heroes and continue to inspire me as we work together to keep the community safe.”
Sanchez said senior executives recognize the extra stress of working during a pandemic and quickly organized a task force that meets twice a week to assess the impact of the virus on the staff and community.
Maines applauds the senior staff for “working tirelessly to get us the support we need to do the jobs we love.”
His big question is “What are we as a hospital, state and nation going to do to prepare better for the next pandemic?”
Many of the nurses, he knows, are in what he called an “upper age bracket” that provides a higher level of experience. He pointed out that with the “general mixed messages we are getting from government, it makes sense there would be some trepidation among the front line.
“But that should not be confused with a lack of resolve and commitment,” he added. “We’re all extra stressed, the public and nursing profession alike, but keep providing your nurses with what they ask for and you’re going to have a good result.”
Maines said Huntington has a good supply of protective equipment and that’s a good thing since there has been an uptick in patients since businesses have started to reopen.
He and his colleagues enjoy the applause and the plaudits they are receiving, but he also wants the public to take care of itself.
“Although that doesn’t sound like job security on my part, that is the whole point to being a nurse — to advocate for the ultimate health of the patient, and you don’t want to be taking up a bed unnecessarily at a time like this.
“Stay healthy physically and mentally to keep up that immune system. Please wear a mask and trust the advice of health professionals and of proven science. Stay informed, and do your best not to spread misinformation.”