Athletic trainers helping at hospitals

Health care providers take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach during pandemic

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March was National Athletic Training month, and for one local athletic trainer the thought of not having the first spring athletic events to look forward to was unimaginable when the month started.

“March is athletic trainers month,” North Montgomery athletic trainer Isaac Hook said. “And I could have never imagined at the beginning of it I was going to not be looking forward to that first softball game on Tuesday the 31st.”

Displaced by school closures, Hook along with Franciscan Health athletic trainers all over the state, including Crawfordsville’s Doug Horton and Southmont’s Kim Chadd, have been lending their hands at local hospitals helping screen patients, and doing anything they can to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were the first healthcare workers as athletic trainers within our organization to be displaced,” Craig Voll, manager of sports medicine for Franciscan Health in western Indiana said. “What we did say was hey ‘we’ve got this great group of healthcare providers, let’s now allow them to be at the front-lines.”

Athletic trainers have spent time enforcing visitor restrictions at their local hospitals, helping with cleaning of the common spaces in the building, and asking four direct questions to incoming patients — Do you have a fever? Do you have a cough with an unknown origin? Have you traveled outside of the country? And have you been in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19?

“For me personally it’s very different,” Hook said. “I thought it was an important role needed at the hospital to help free up other hospital employees.”

For Covington athletic trainer Dan Dobrowolski, he believes their education and training has prepared them for this situation.

“I think all of it is really cool because it shows as healthcare providers we are able to adapt to all these different roles and do all these different things for the hospital, and we have that ability through our
different skill sets and dynamics,” he said. “I think our education spanning such a large spectrum of disciplines of healthcare I think it really serves us well to help the hospital system in this kind of time where everything is so uncertain right now.”

Chadd feels like the transition is a natural fit.

“I feel ATs transitioning into new roles is a natural fit due to our jobs requiring us to be calm under pressure from experience dealing with athletes who suffer sudden acute injuries,” she said. “We have taken the attitude of ‘all hands on deck’ to do our part to help.”

No one, including healthcare providers, could have predicted the current situation — an ongoing pandemic that is slowly creeping into Indiana’s rural communities.

“As a healthcare provider you know that you’re always the one running toward the fire when everyone else is running away,” Voll said. “But to be honest as an athletic trainer did I think we would be working in the hospital daily and screening patients and transporting patients — no. Everybody is making it up on the fly, because we have to. Nobody planned for a pandemic in this kind of scope.”

Local athletic trainers will begin to assist the Montgomery County Health Department and Dr. Scott Douglas with the drive-through testing site in Crawfordsville, and as they continue to move closer to the front-lines, they are urging people to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.

“The virus is something all age groups should take serious and listen to CDC and Health Department recommendations,” Horton said. “It’s unfortunate that school and athletics have been put on hold for the time-being, but it is a necessary step to slow the spread of the virus. I think it’s important to look for the positive in every situation.”

Voll says the biggest concern right now is that 80% of people who have contracted COVID-19 do not show any symptoms, and are spreading it to those most vulnerable.

“The best advice I can give with us in this national emergency is we all have to do our part,” he said. “For some of us we have to sacrifice and stay at home.”

While this health crisis continues to unfold and turn people’s lives upside down on a daily basis, Indiana students could return to the classroom and athletic fields as early as May 1. Staying in shape for athletes important, and Hook believes they will be ready.

“I think that kids will be ready,” he said. “Everyone will be itching to get back out there. I do think that if we have a definitive start time that kids will spend the week or two before getting back in shape even if they’ve taken the first four or fives weeks off.”

And all three Montgomery County athletic trainers want to remind local athletes that they are still here to help.

“We are also available to our athletes if they have any questions or concerns,” Chadd said. “We added an electronic medical recording system this winter. Health Roster allow us to communicate with parents and athletes and to use a type of telemedicine.”

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