Thoughts From the Front Line

BayCare Health System Heroes Open Up About Challenges, Change, and Keeping the Faith

Carlos Felix

Facilities Manager, Bartow Regional Medical Center 


Felix is in 15th year as facilities manager at Bartow Regional Medical Center. He’s responsible for conducting fire drills, meaning he has had to find new ways to comply with regulations while keeping social distancing. His team also was heavily involved in creating special isolation rooms for COVID-19 patients, and that involved coming up with good solutions to make that happen.  

“Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to enter a COVID-19 designated patient room. It was important to use education, so the Facilities team knew what they needed to do. BayCare did a great job in sharing education across the system.” 


How has this experience changed you?

“It makes you think how susceptible we are. I don’t want to risk my family – that’s the main thing I think about. I’m very cautious now.”


HaiDang Hoang, DO


Family Medicine Physician and Primary Care Medical Director, BayCare Medical Group in Polk County  

“[Working in this environment] is challenging but rewarding. We understand our patients’ concerns and try our best to provide them the assurance needed as well as the appropriate care. We want patients to know that we are always there for them. On the other hand, it is rewarding because this is what we all signed up for when we entered the medical profession and when we signed up to work for BayCare. This is our chance to step up and be there for our patients during this challenging time. 

“Knowing that we are part of the medical community that is working together for all the patients keeps us going. Also, being part of an extraordinary team here at BayCare makes it easy to go to work and do what we do daily.   


How has this experience changed you? 

“I am more thankful for what I have and more energized to do what I do. I am thankful to be in the right profession and grateful for my team.”


Eaven Devaux

Environmental services supervisor, Winter Haven Hospital

Devaux is in charge of making sure everyone knows how to clean and use equipment properly, and training new team members.

“We have a heightened awareness of the importance of our wok. When we first learned about COVID-19, I told my teams that we are trained professionals and we can help save lives – not just the patients, the nurses, the doctors, but also our own lives. It has brought a sense of pride to me and I feel like I’m a trained germ killer and my job matters and our department can do something to help.

“One of the new challenges I’ve faced is needing to comfort staff and keep them confident in their work. I was able to go into the rooms with them and help them understand the donning and doffing of PPE (personal protective equipment) and hand washing. Being in the room with our team members helped. My family was worried, so every day I came home and practiced all the proper precautions – leaving clothes outside and showering as soon as possible. I helped my family realize that I would be OK and made them more comfortable. 

“We go into rooms, even non-COVID-19, and we can see that the patients are anxious. I always encourage my team to make sure they see us practicing hand hygiene and we try to be upbeat with them. If they ask questions, we let them know we’re performing a service to keep them safe and that helps put them at ease and projects confidence that we know what we’re doing. Even small conversations, like when they ask what products and equipment we’re using to clean the room, help, too.”

How has this experience changed you? 

“It has helped me realize how easy it is to get sick and life has more meaning to me. The whole world has been affected by this, and it is something we have to really pay attention to.”


Joseph Lynch, MD

Critical Care intensivist, BayCare Medical Group

We’ve had some really sick people and all of them survived. We had a Sunshine Walk the other day. That felt really good. The teamwork we practice in the ICU with all the other departments has always existed and it’s been crucial during this outbreak. (Sunshine Walks are offered to patients who want to celebrate their discharge from the hospital. Our team members line the hall while clapping and sharing their best wishes for the patient’s continued recovery.)

“Everybody is becoming much more aware of how interconnected we are. It’s hard to model that, but you usually go to the same grocery store, same church and our patterns intersect.”


Katherine Jackson (KJ), RN 

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) nurse, Bartow Regional Medical Center

“One challenge has been working in unknown environments, but we do that every day anyway. It feels good to know I have the PPE (personal protective equipment) I need to be safe. The hospital’s director of operations makes sure we have everything we need.  

“I have a relationship with my Lord and Savior and prayer helps keep my spirits up. I believe in the word that He’s given me. I know that’s what has gotten me through all of this. 

“Compared to before, you’re more careful, always monitoring what you’re doing and trying not to touch your face. I even have to find a different way to push my glasses up without touching my face. You’re constantly wiping stuff down.” 

How has this experience changed you? 

“I’ve become more spiritual, compassionate, loving. … But this situation makes you reflect on life. You have to have an outlet and mine is spiritual, along with my family.” 

Roberto Bueno Arias, RN

Emergency Department Assistant Manager, Bartow Regional Medical Center 


We don’t allow visitors and that can be hard for patients who can’t see their families. It is also hard that they cannot see a smile on our face because we have to protect ourselves with a mask and appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). 

I love what I do. I chose to be a nurse because I want to save lives and this might happen once in my health care career. That keeps my spirits up because this is a moment to step up to this challenge and remember why I decided to become a nurse.”


How has this experience changed you? 

“It’s making me a better nurse, to be more careful and making me realize that a virus you can’t see can have such dramatic results. We don’t have to wait for a pandemic to make changes and realize how important we are to society.”


MacKenzie Kohlbrand

Registered Nurse, Patient Care Leader


“Before the pandemic, my schedule was pretty set and I always came in to work the same time and left around the same time. Now, I make sure that my schedule is flexible so I can be available for my team whenever they need me. I make sure they can reach me at any time via phone or email. I often stay supportive and accessible for whatever they need and work closely with my management team to do so. 

“These patients can change so rapidly as the disease progresses and it requires constant observation. You feel like you have to be on your toes at every minute so you can provide the best care possible, but it also requires a lot of mental and physical strength to do so. You have to be brave and show that on your face in order to help your patients stay strong and confident. It’s very tough, but very rewarding when you see them get to go home.

“We are fortunate that we don’t have the extreme outbreaks that other parts of the state and country have seen. Our patients are getting the care they need when they need it and are going home. That is such a great achievement – our patients are fighting for their lives, and then go home to their families. 

“We know [the patients] miss their families. So we interact with them as much as possible. We’ll chat while charting or sit in the room with them while they eat a meal. We help them do video chats with their families and will go grab something from the curbside if a family drops off a card or something else that is special to the patient. 


How has this experience changed you?

“This experience has taught me to pay attention to what’s going on in the world on a constant basis and not be naïve about the unknown. This experience has made me a stronger nurse, which I will always be grateful for as I continue to grow.” 


Michelle Morales, RN 

WHH care coordinator

“Some of the days are longer now because you’re trying to keep families informed. Sometimes there are difficult cases and it’s not the moment to walk away and pick it up tomorrow. It’s caused us to be flexible. I want to make sure I’m there when they need me, whether it’s the doctor, nurse, or family. Especially family because there’s no visitation at this time. 

“Whenever I’m able to be that link between the patient and the family, it’s very rewarding. They’re very, very, very appreciative. Taking the time to call and say, ‘There’s no update,’ – those little things mean the world to them. 

“Nursing has gone back to treating the whole patient. Not all disciplines are able to see the patient, so we as nurses need to be mindful of treating the whole patient – walking with them for therapy needs, praying with them for spiritual needs. We have to do our best to meet all of their needs.” 

How has this experience changed you? 

“It’s taught me to slow down. Take the extra minute to pay attention to the little things because it could mean a lot to someone.”

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