Lessons Learned and a Foundation Set
Claire Hardin, an alumna of Westminster Schools of Augusta, has worked in field hospitals and disaster relief zones, including in Haiti three times, twice after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010.
She said treating patients of COVID-19 as an emergency medicine nurse at Colorado Children’s Hospital tops the 16-hour shifts she worked seven days straight with disaster relief groups, International Medical Corps, and Doctors Without Borders.
“I think this is probably the worst I have ever seen,” Hardin, who graduated from Westminster in 1996, said of the affliction brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
When the World Health Organization declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in early March, Hardin, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, said she and her coworkers were all very uncertain as to how it was going to affect children. Her team serves pediatric patients as old as 24 years of age and if an adult walks into the hospital, they also have to treat them.
“It got a little crazy in the beginning,” said Hardin, who is also a Family Nurse Practitioner. “There was a lot of uncertainty, and then there was a mad rush to figure out how we were going to protect ourselves as healthcare workers.”
At the outset of the pandemic, Hardin said one of the attending doctors at Colorado Children’s Hospital was the first to contract COVID-19. As a result, the doctor was hospitalized for four to five days before making a full recovery. She said that adding to her stress is her family is from and currently living in New York, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.
“There was a lot of fear,” Hardin said. “At first, volumes were low, but now we are starting to see more cases of children getting sick from COVID-19. It has been stressful.”
When not at work, Hardin said she and her coworkers are quarantined at home. At the hospital, children of parents who have tested positive for COVID-19, and have a fever or cough, are first seen in a tent hospital. Healthcare workers must be dressed in full gear, talk over a microphone to a scribe who translates notes, and only work five to six hours at a time before being forced to take a break, Hardin said.
Hardin said she is impressed by how her hospital has responded, doing its best to make sure enough gowns, face shields and masks are provided to its staff. She said each staff members gets one face shield for the entire pandemic to reuse, and a new mask every shift. She said her team has risen to the challenge.
“Everybody has it down now to a very ritualistic practice where when you get home, shoes are taken off and left outside the door, scrubs are put right into the washer, you jump into the shower without touching anything and then you have to clean the door handles and your car. It is a new reality at this point. This is how we have to practice.”
Hardin’s advice to the general population was to take the pandemic seriously and to be nice to all first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines bravely fighting the outbreak.
“This is real,” she said. “Please listen to the science behind this and not the political extremism that is fueling a lot of division in our country. That is not what we need right now.”
Hardin asked the Westminster community to support and recognize all first responders and healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and environmental service techs.
“That is empowering and very appreciated,” she said.
Hardin said she is very appreciative of the discipline and dedication she was taught at Westminster. Playing varsity soccer and being a team captain with an amazing group of young women, Hardin said she learned the importance of responsibility for others.
“I had such an amazing experience at Westminster,” Hardin said. “The people I met and the teachers I had carried me through some difficult times and some amazing experiences. From AP Bio to the soccer field, I learned some pretty valuable lessons that I believe set the foundation for where I am now.”
After Westminster, Hardin attended The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Environmental Science. She then attended Yale University, where she received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing.
After working in emergency medicine for four years, she attended Quinnipiac University, where she earned her Doctor of Nursing in 2015. In her career, she has worked at Yale’s New Haven Health and Bridgeport hospitals in emergency medicine for 12 years. For the past two years, she has worked in emergency medicine and critical care at Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora.