That changed after the coronavirus pandemic erupted across the country.
“During COVID, we had lots of ventilators running,” Howard said. “We had about six at one time, which is typically unheard of for us here at Fremont and patients were on the vents for two weeks to a month or more.”
Her days were spent making ventilator changes, drawing arterial blood gases from patients’ wrists or from arterial lines.
Medical professionals learned early in the pandemic that having COVID patients lie on their stomachs helped open the air sacks in their lungs and helped them breathe better.
“We spent a lot of time putting patients on their stomachs,” Howard said.
It takes about four to five people to roll one patient over. A respiratory therapist would stand near the patient’s head and keep the breathing tube in place while nurses turned over the patient and monitored IVs.
The goal was to have patients remain on their stomachs for 12 to 16 hours a day.
Every two hours, the patient’s head would need to be moved so they wouldn’t get stiff or develop sores on one cheek or the other, Howard said.
Patients, who were on ventilators, were sedated. While a patient is still on a ventilator, medical professionals will try to conduct wakening trials, trying to take them off some of the medication to let them wake up a little.