A Year Later: What’s next in the Inova Health System’s fight against COVID-19 and the next pandemic?

Virginia

Courtesy: Inova Loudoun Hospital

LANSDOWNE, Va. (WDVM) — Marissa Jamarik was a frontline nurse in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic. 

“It’s so different this time because it was so much information coming from so many different sources,” Jamarik said. “We weren’t plugged into iPhones and everything else back then. Nothing brings me more joy than being a nurse and now getting to lead them is just phenomenal.”

Jamarik is the chief nursing officer at Inova Loudoun Hospital and the vice president of nursing for the Heart and Vascular Service Line. She says healthcare workers at all five of Inova’s hospitals are trained in emergency management throughout the year.

“We practice what’s called evidence-based medicine, and that’s based on the best evidence,” she said, “but when you have a brand new virus like COVID-19,  the information was changing very rapidly. So it may have been that the best advice from the CDC on one day was a certain type of mask and the next day was a different type of mask so that was a little bit of a challenge, and we had to really spend a lot of time pushing information out to the team with what was the best evidence in that moment.” 

While Inova found ways to support its frontline workers, the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman picked up the tab for lunch in April.

“I hope you know how much me and my family appreciate what you’re doing and more importantly I think the whole community in the D.C., Virginia, Maryland area,” he said during a surprise Zoom call with frontline workers at Inova Loudoun. “You guys are the true heroes.”

In May, the frontline workers’ first responder colleagues showed their appreciation with a parade at each hospital, thanks to the coordination of Captain Mike Lighthiser with the George Mason University Police Department. 

“I think it’s a different type of empathy that comes from someone who’s been there and been in those shoes,” he said in an interview.

Lucky for the thousands of people the system serves, Inova has risen to the challenge over the last year. It’s conducting four COVID-related clinical trials, and Jamarik says training will continue to prepare frontline workers for the next health emergency.

“It might not be a virus; it could be a major airplane incident, God forbid, but any of those things could happen so I think the thing we will take away is: ‘Don’t let your guard down, expect it; there will be something else but we’ll be ready,’” Jamarik said. 

“AIDS was more of a slow roll. COVID-19 came like a wave and people scrambled and put their head down and they’re just now starting to come up for air,” she said. “I hope that the country recognizes that healthcare workers really put themselves first for almost a year now and did incredible work. I hope the country never forgets that and we do everything we can to support them.”

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