KENT STATE GEAUGA ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: Caring at the Core of COVID Response

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Last spring, a COVID-19 outbreak overwhelmed a local nursing home in Geauga County, with cases among patients and healthcare staff jumping from seven to 31 overnight. Suddenly, the facility was in crisis mode… understaffed, under-equipped and under duress. Ohman Family Living at Briar had thought they would be providing healthcare support to University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, as a 300% surge of patients was anticipated at local hospitals. But their roles were reversed when 40 percent of their staff tested positive for COVID-19. In April 2020, UH Geauga stepped in to assist Briar with a playbook and a plan that coordinated testing, treating, order of operations, supplies and staff support.  Supporting the UH Task Force Strike Team was Brittany Sustar, BSN RN-BC, Manager of Nursing Operations and Patient Experience at UH Geauga. A 2010 graduate of Kent State University at Geauga, she helped the task force with planning, response and recovery capabilities for the community.  She recalls, “It was awesome that we had all the resources that they [Briar] needed in the moment they needed it.”  UH Geauga provided nursing staff, patient care, infection control education, work flow, and guidance on how to partner with doctors and transfer centers for direct admission to the hospital.

UH helped to convert Briar into a remote hospital, isolating COVID patients at the nursing facility in most cases, minimizing potential spread of the virus. As UH Geauga supported Briar with strategy, organization and structure, nursing home administrators were able to regain confidence. Thanks to the UH Geauga playbook, the nursing home experienced a 72-hour turnaround to command and control, then into recovery phase. Sustar says that the UH team’s focus on competence and commitment expresses their priority on care. That ethic was drilled into her as a nursing student at Kent State Geauga.  “The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program provided an in-depth focus on caring, which is the core of nursing. Caring is giving of oneself for others and that is exactly what the community needed during the challenges of the pandemic. We have never faced a challenge like this within our health system and we have been dedicated to preparing and serving those in our community to the best of our ability.”  While a nursing student at Kent State Geauga, Sustar says that she was “challenged to think critically and in a way that always put the patients’ needs first… It truly helped prepare me for the nursing field.”

Sustar’s entire nursing career since graduation has been spent at UH Geauga, starting as a clinical nurse. Since 2014, she has held various managerial roles, ranging from Assistant Nurse Manager/House Supervisor to Manager of Patient Experience/1 West Center for Orthopedics/Observation Operations before moving into her current position in 2019. A Geauga County native and Newbury resident, Sustar attended Berkshire Junior/Senior High School before receiving her nursing training at Kent State Geauga.  She says, “The most rewarding aspect of my career is that I get to serve those in the community in which I live and Kent State University’s Geauga Campus provided that.”  With her Kent State Geauga ethic of caring at her core, Brittany Sustar embodies the mission of University Hospitals: to heal, to teach, to discover.

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