UHealth nurse helps to provide answers

UHealth nurse helps to provide answers

By Charisse Lopez-Mason

UHealth nurse helps to provide answers

By Charisse Lopez-Mason
Nicole Gottlieb, an advanced practice registered nurse, leads the team managing the University’s COVID-19 employee-dedicated hotline. The group works diligently and compassionately to handle callers queries and help find solutions.

Every morning at 7:30, Nicole Gottlieb joins her colleagues to steal a quiet moment of reflection before the phones begin their daily symphony. They gather—a few in person, but most join virtually—to exchange glances of support in an effort to ground themselves for another day of serving as the voices of comfort and pillars for the University of Miami community.

Then, they get to work, where the questions come in waves—as high as 300 calls in a day—from health care workers, essential team members, and faculty and staff members. All are seeking guidance, advice, and connection.

Gottlieb, a UHealth Preoperative Assessment Center ARNP (UPAC) at the Lennar Foundation Medical Center on the Coral Gables campus, leads the team managing the University’s COVID-19 employee-dedicated hotline. Established on March 20—the hotline was one of the first centered around employees that was  launched at an academic health center in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The team—led by Rafic Warwar, Lennar's chief administrative officer—intently observed the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020. “We were closely monitoring how the coronavirus crisis was evolving, hour by hour, and we made an early decision that we needed a convenient way to communicate with our employees and help them get through what is turning out to be a long journey,” said Warwar.

Gottlieb explains that most of the hotline calls are emotional. “Some of the people calling are sick and they are afraid. It’s our role to provide guidance and keep our composure,” she said.

Employees from across the University reach out to the hotline if they suspect that they were exposed to the virus and if they are feeling symptoms. Depending on a number of variables, the nurses will recommend they contact their physician, get tested, or self-isolate. The team of nurses uses a complex algorithm to determine if, and when, a caller should be tested. There are multiple factors that are considered, including co-morbidity, the type of exposure (casual or close), whether the caller was in personal protective gear (PPE), health status, and more. “Every case is going to be different,” emphasized Gottlieb. “Our guidance is very individualized.”

The typical call center is not optimized for social distancing. At Lennar, those that still come into the office, nurses sit at their own table, and follow the CDC guidelines—wearing masks and using CAVI disinfectant wipes to clean laptops, headphones, and tables.

About 20 UHealth nurses rotate through the call center. While Gottlieb knew most of them from Lennar’s rapid response team, there are several she had never met, including nurses from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Alex’s Place.

“We’ve created a tight bond, the community we’ve created here has been such a pleasant experience during such a dark time,” she noted.

Along with responding to calls, the nurses expedite lab results and review the data, working diligently to get people the information they need and get health care workers back to work.

Gottlieb—after switching her studies to focus on nursing—found her passion during an internship in the emergency department at Jackson Memorial Hospital.. She empathizes with her colleagues who are working long hours and interacting with patients all day. “I am so grateful for all of them,” she said. 

These days Gottlieb’s responsibilities are split between managing the call center and overseeing patients coming to the facility for procedures. At the end of her 12-hour day (5-6 days a week), she returns home to her family and tries to spend a moment in her backyard resetting before switching gears and putting on her mom hat.

“My role is not front facing, but on certain days I do test patients before they come in for treatments. On those days, I change clothes in the garage, and my kids know to keep their distance until I come out of the shower.”

Often, her boys patiently wait for her outside the bathroom door. Her three sons—who are 9, 10, and 13—understand that their mom is working hard to help others. 

Recently, her 9-year-old son interviewed her for a school project. The first question he asked his mom was to describe COVID-19 in one word. 

“Uncertainty,” she replied.

“This experience has made me realize that life truly is out of our control, and there is only so much we can do,” she said. “I’m just grateful for being able to play my part.”

University employees who are experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms should contact their health care provider and also notify the UHealth hotline at 305-243-8378. The hotline is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Employees who are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days must also contact their HR partner.