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PAs Navigating COVID-19: Jay Innerhofer

Tuesday, April 28, 2020   (0 Comments)
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Jason "Jay" Innerhofer, MHS, PA(ASCP)CM
AAPA member since 2002

"Bienvenidos from Albuquerque!  I am a senior pathologists’ assistant working for a pathology group that provides services to several different hospitals and a reference laboratory in Albuquerque, NM.  Our governor just extended the stay-at-home order through May 15, 2020.  Our state is currently working to develop a phased reopening plan for our economy, which will include how businesses will protect employees and customers.  This will be a long process, as New Mexico is not predicted to hit the 'peak' of the virus until early May.

There have been quite a few significant changes at the hospitals.  We are currently working with a skeleton crew, as our schedule includes only surgeries and procedures that are deemed essential.  At the start of the pandemic, I was asked to develop a procedure on how to manage fresh specimens sent to pathology from the operating room from diagnosed and/or suspected COVID-19 patients.  The updated procedure pertained specifically to lung, oro/nasopharyngeal, and bowel specimens.  The procedure was carefully adopted by all departments to ensure consistency and uniformity when handling specimens.

My new normal is most likely quite similar to others working in our field.  When entering the building, I am asked to show my badge, my temperature must be taken, and I am required to answer specific questions about any symptoms I may be experiencing.  I am then offered a mask, as they have recently become a requirement when working.  An extra precaution taken at one of the hospitals I work at is the use of an ultraviolet light to help disinfect the gross room before we begin working.

As the lead PA responsible for providing training and education, this unique situation has provided me the opportunity to designate more time towards my obligations for the pathologists' assistant students at Rosalind Franklin University and the pathology residents at the University of New Mexico.  One challenge I have been focused on recently is how to reduce the need to have our pathologists enter the frozen section room to view specimens.  Currently, the PAs have been fitted with N95 masks, but most of the pathologists have not.  This obstacle will most likely be solved through the use of technology and telepathology I am currently working on.

This unprecedented time in recent history has surely given me quite a few difficulties to overcome, not only professionally, but personally, as well.  Of particular concern are my elderly parents and my twin brother, who all fell ill last year with the flu and had to be hospitalized with near fatal pneumonia.  It is so vitally important for stay-at-home orders to be followed as much as possible to protect people like my parents, who are more susceptible to COVID-19.  My wife and I feel so incredibly thankful to work in 'essential' positions during this time, as we know others are not as fortunate and are suffering significant economic devastation.  Although our new normal at home can only be described as controlled chaos with virtual learning and online classes for our two children, and speech-language therapy services being given online by my wife, we certainly find so many things to be grateful for during this time.  I can’t help but appreciate a calmer, less busy way of life during my drive to and from work.  I enjoy seeing so many families exercising outdoors on our beautiful hiking trails and bike paths, all while upholding rules of social distancing.  My family and I also look forward to Friday nights, when we support a local brewery/pizzeria in town by ordering carry out.  It’s always important to find the silver lining!"

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