Honoring our Pandemic Healthcare Heroes

During the Month of December of our 110th year, we conclude our Healthcare Heroes through History blog post series with a focus on our current decade, the 2020s, and the countless heroes who helped us throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


Pandemic Preparation and Technology Tools

2020 was a historical year, not only for Cornerstone VNA, but for the world. The COVID-19 pandemic became a reality for our region in early March 2020, and thanks to our emergency preparedness efforts, we were well-prepared to weather this unprecedented public health crisis. We sprang into action to ensure the health and safety of our staff, our patients, and the community. Although we were urged to stay apart for our health and safety, we found creative ways to still feel a sense of community, and we continued caring for patients without skipping a beat.

Thanks to important technology investments, which were a part of our emergency preparedness plan, our office staff quickly transitioned to working remotely to help limit exposure to COVID-19. They adapted very well to a new work environment, and virtual meetings, in an effort to continue providing support to our patients and our field staff.

In anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 positive patients, we immediately reached out to our Telehealth vendor, and we were able to double our program from 40 to 80 telehealth units. We were tremendously grateful to a local family foundation and an individual donor who reached out to us and gave us emergency funds to help support our expanded telehealth program.

Our field staff continued providing exceptional care to our patients, navigating each day with an increased focus on infection control, including the use of personal protective equipment and homemade masks donated by local individuals and community groups. We received well over 1,000 homemade masks from local mask makers to be used by our staff, volunteers, patients, and caregivers.

Although our in-person volunteer services were put on hold, many volunteers participated in other activities, such as delivering flowers to hospice patients and supporting our efforts to create a Virtual Hospice Memorial Service in the summer and fall. Our volunteer board members worked very closely with our leadership team, providing guidance and support as we navigated through this unique time. Our office volunteers gradually returned with precautions, to continue providing support.


Recognizing Heroes and Making Progress

From the very first alert about COVID-19, our Quality Improvement Director, June Gallup, RN, provided key information and communication throughout the public health crisis. June organized, planned, collaborated, secured personal protective equipment, educated, and kept all staff informed about COVID-19. In recognition of June’s tireless efforts, Cornerstone VNA proudly honored her with the 2020 Nightingale Award for her tireless efforts.

“When reflecting on our past several months and who would best fit our 2020 Nightingale Award, the one and only June Gallup came to mind.” said Julie Reynolds, President/CEO. “Like Nightingale, she is not afraid to do what it takes to get things done. She gets involved, researches, shares resources, and collaborates – all in an effort to make sure we can meet our mission and improve when needed.”

As flu season approached, we held our first ever Drive-Thru Flu Clinic in September for our community and our staff. We also participated in the rollout of COVID-19 testing in the homes through a state contract, and we were also able to test staff when they exhibited symptoms with a rapid testing product that was developed late in the year.

2020 was a year like no other, but thanks to the support and dedication from staff, board of directors, volunteers and donors, we worked together to be there for each other, our patients, and the community. By the end of the year, our healthcare heroes had cared for 135 COVID-19 patients at home, including 18 patients who sadly passed away because of the virus.

2021 started on a positive note thanks to the rollout of a new COVID-19 vaccine. Our frontline workers were able to start making appointments for their first vaccines, a step towards protecting our staff and our patients. In March, we were a part of providing vaccinations to homebound patients. An NHPR reporter went out on the road with June Gallup, QI Director to record the first at-home COVID-19 vaccination.

As we reflected on our work during the public health crisis, we wanted to recognize some key people who contributed to our success. In August of 2021, we proudly presented the 2021 Cornerstone Award to four local Mask Maker Groups: Tara Estates Mask Brigade, Face Mask Makers from Barnstead and beyond, Seacoast Mask Makers, and Friends of Farmington. These generous area mask makers pooled together their fabrics and elastics, fired up their sewing machines and got to work at a rapid pace. They developed safe ways of picking up completed masks from each other and proudly delivered their masks to organizations around the community, including Cornerstone VNA.

According to June Gallup, QI Director, “At a time when medical masks needed to be used for patient care by our field staff, these beautiful handmade masks were just what we needed to share with our office staff, patients, families, volunteers and caregivers.”

During our hybrid staff appreciation event in November 2021, we honored Sandy Powers, RN, Community Wellness Nurse with the 2021 Nightingale Award. Sandy, who celebrated her 30th year with Cornerstone VNA, started as a field nurse and followed her passion by becoming certified in geriatric nursing and achieving her certification as a health coach. In addition to managing our health and wellness clinics and managing the nursing role in our Life Care private duty program, Sandy supported our staff and our local community members throughout the pandemic.


Gratitude for All Heroes

It is impossible for us to truly capture the gratitude we have for all of the healthcare heroes who had such a tremendous impact on our ability to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. From our local mask making groups to our Community Wellness Nurse and everyone in between, we are surrounded by the most caring and compassionate people.

Julie Reynolds, RN, President/CEO shares, “Thank you to our healthcare heroes who were there for us throughout the pandemic and who continue to shine by providing the very best care to our patients. Although we are only three years into the 2020s, we have experienced an incredible number of challenges and successes. Seeing how we navigated the pandemic and all we’ve accomplished in this decade to date gives me great hope for the future of this organization and for home healthcare services.”

Thank you for reading this final blog post series of 2023 in celebration of Cornerstone VNA’s 110th anniversary and in recognition of our healthcare heroes through history. It is an honor and a privilege to provide trusted and compassionate healthcare at home. We are proud of our rich history, and we look forward to being here for future generations.