We’re sharing the stories of people who are helping to guide us, serve us, save us during the COVID-19 pandemic; many putting their own well being at risk to save lives and keep society moving under conditions we can only call the new normal. 

In the latest of our “Look for the Helpers” series we speak with 31 year old Samantha Haughton, a wing out of Syracuse University who joined the Lions in 2015. Born and raised in Jamaica, Samantha is a Physician Assistant (PA) at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) on E. 70th Street in Manhattan. 

Normally reserved for elective surgeries, in Mid-March HSS flipped its model from orthopedic hospital to a general acute care model to help in the emergency in just two short weeks. HSS suspended all nonessential surgeries, expanded capacity, and though been pressed into service to treat COVID-19 patients, they have been treating patients from other hospitals in need of emergency orthopedic surgery, medical-surgery and critical care, regardless of COVID status. In addition, 900 HSS team members volunteered to help other hospitals.

Over to Samantha:

“Every time I see a patient, their eyes are all I see. Mostly it’s terror and confusion.” 

– Samantha Haughton

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic at work? 

HSS is specifically an orthopedic surgery hospital. We rarely care for non-surgical patients so when the COVID-19 breakout really started to take hold, I wasn’t sure of what role we could play. 

At first we shut down all elective surgeries, which was about 90% of what we do on a daily basis. So my days initially were very boring. Some days I did nothing at all but still came in to work every day. 

Slowly the hospitals across the city were at their capacity with the influx of infected patients but also had to care for non-infected patients. At that point our hospital began to transfer in medically ill patients and all hospital PAs were recruited to take care of them. 

Currently, we transformed 3 floors into designated COVID floors including one surgical floor as an ICU. We are also still performing essential trauma surgeries. All PA’s are now working different shifts and everyone is being flexed to increase staffing for these critically ill patients, both COVID and non-COVID. It’s been a struggle for us ortho PA’s to be in this situation but all I’ve seen is people stepping up to the plate to help and it’s been inspiring. 

We’re sharing the stories of people who are helping to guide us, serve us, save us during the COVID-19 pandemic; many putting their own well being at risk to save lives and keep society moving under conditions we can only call the new normal.
Samantha Haugton

What is the environment like at HSS? 

Every time I see a patient, their eyes are all I see. Mostly it’s terror and confusion. The PPE I have makes me seem like a faceless ghost and even though I’m scared about contracting the virus during these interactions, I always take time to wish them well or have a little banter if they’re in the mood. During a time like this, healthcare workers can understandably forget about the personal aspect of medicine. 

“The many PAs, hospitalists, nurses and orthopedic surgeons I see everyday, all working outside of their comfort zones keep me going. We are all stronger than we think even as we tell ourselves we aren’t.”

Samantha Haughton
We’re sharing the stories of people who are helping to guide us, serve us, save us during the COVID-19 pandemic; many putting their own well being at risk to save lives and keep society moving under conditions we can only call the new normal.
Samantha and Co-Workers at HSS

What should we all know based on your experience?

Tragedy can inspire hope and bring people together in ways we normally wouldn’t. Multiple coworkers have had a close family member pass from this yet they still come to work.

The many PAs, hospitalists, nurses and orthopedic surgeons I see everyday, all working outside of their comfort zones keep me going. We are all stronger than we think even as we tell ourselves we aren’t. At the beginning of this, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with COVID. I realized that I was terrified of getting sick or worse, getting a loved one sick. The people I’ve kept around me are a godsend! They’ve helped calm my fears and supported me every step of the way. I am so grateful and blessed!

“We’ve also had multiple asymptomatic patients who ended up positive or had false negatives so please please do your best to social distance during this time and protect yourself if you have to be in public!”

Samantha Haughton

We’ve also had multiple asymptomatic patients who ended up positive or had false negatives so please please do your best to social distance during this time and protect yourself if you have to be in public! 

Do you have a story to tell? Please DM us so we can help tell it. Please continue to stay at home, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing. And if you need someone to connect with or just talk, we are here for you.