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NEWS | June 3, 2020

Medical officer serves others in COVID-19 fight

By (Courtesy article) 3d Medical Comman (Deployment Support)

First Lt. James Ennis, resident of Salem, N.H., just completed a deployment to combat COVID-19 at Elmhurst Hospital-Queens as part of an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force with the U.S. Army Reserve.

Ennis, a native of Boston and graduate of UMass–Boston and UMass Medical School, Graduate School of Nursing, tells his story of service and supporting the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.

I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During that time as a young man I spent much time surrounded by the healthcare system and its many wonderful professionals. It changed my life forever. I wanted to be like those healthcare professionals. I wanted to someday be in a position to help others the way that I was helped. I have been incredibly fortunate to be living that dream as a nurse and nurse practitioner for the past 8 years.

My experience in my youth reminded me that life is both beautiful and fragile. I am committed to use mine to help others.

I have always been a part of a team as far back as I can remember. When I finished playing hockey in college I embarked in a career as a nurse and then nurse practitioner. During my education I started the application process for the military because in my opinion there was no team greater than a military medicine team. I could not think of a more perfect opportunity in my life than being able to serve my country, Soldiers, and citizens of this great country in a job that I love.

I was working in Urgent Care with Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital in March when our volume suddenly dropped due to COVID-19. Coincidentally, the Army Reserve was preparing its medical providers to support hard hit communities and I could fill a need. Upon notification, I was given 48 hours’ to report.

The Army team I was a member of was managing a unit at New York City, Elmhurst Hospital-Queens. It was difficult work as the patients we saw were very sick.

There are many factors that make COVID-19 difficult to manage. However, we saw improvement as new management strategies emerge, social distancing is helping flatten the curve, and augmentation with military resources.

With any crisis there is opportunity to rise to the occasion and adapt. Using technology, such as FaceTime and other applications, has allowed teams to keep family members updated and see their loved ones, despite no visitation policies. It is important to let family know that their loved one is receiving great medical care, but also recognizing the important role that psychosocial aspects have on care.

One patient I remember, I had recently discharged a patient who was admitted for over two weeks. Seeing a positive outcome during a time where many patients were not as fortunate is something that helped remind us why we do this work. It is an honor to play even a small role in the care of these incredibly resilient people and staff of the hospital. To see healthcare professionals during difficult times, adapt to the challenge while maintaining the human connection has made me even more proud to be a healthcare provider and member of the military.

It has been an honor to represent the Army in this unprecedented time in the battle against COVID-19. To have the US Army Reserve mobilized within the United States working alongside Joint Forces as well as civilians in the epicenter of this pandemic has been life changing. I have never been prouder to be a part of a team that helped people of the United States in one of the most difficult times of their lives.