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Hindsight: Nurses In Tamworth Keep Community Connected After Year Of Social Isolation

courtesy of the Tamworth Community Nurse Association

2020 has been a tough year, and as we approach the end, NHPR is checking in with people we spoke with early on in the pandemic to see how they're holding up, and what they've learned. It's part of a series we're calling Hindsight.

In March, we talked with Jo Anne Rainville on NHPR's Morning Edition. She's a full-time nurse and the executive director of the Tamworth Community Nurse Association, a group that provides free medical care and counseling to people in town.

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Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Rainville again about how she's been working to keep her community connected during this year of social isolation. 

Rick Ganley: It's been a while since we talked. I know it seems like years now, but you actually had to close your office, of course, because the pandemic was just really taking hold in the U.S. And you were treating people out of cars and on porches. How have things changed since then?

Jo Anne Rainville: Well, we actually went out and bought ourselves a tent and set it up in the parking lot. And we called it our MASH tent. You know, you still have to have some kind of a sense of humor. And so at least we could be out of the rain and out of the weather. And people were very patient with us. And when they'd come to have their vital signs checked, or have a dressing change or get a blood draw, we worked out of this tent. And now, fortunately enough, we had just in this past month been able to get back into our office.

Rick Ganley: With the cold weather coming on, it's great to have the office open again, I'm sure.

Jo Anne Rainville: It certainly is.

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Rick Ganley: Can you talk about, you know, the effect of all of these months of trying to provide those kind of services for folks in town, especially for the folks who just can't leave the house? I mean, obviously, there's got to be some fatigue setting in here.

Jo Anne Rainville: Well, we're doing well. I mean, I'm doing well. My other nurse, Pam, she's just a real trooper. Our office manager is on the phone so much that she probably feels like it's growing out of her ear. But we are making constant contact with people. Some of those contacts are by phone. You know, like yesterday, I called several people that I knew that have COVID-19 just on a check-n basis. How are you doing? How are you feeling? You know, is your breathing okay? Those kinds of things. The appreciation that people have shown us, it would just touch your heart. You wouldn't think that getting somebody's mail would bring the smile and the relief that it does, but it does. And that helps you keep on going.

Rick Ganley: Have you seen a lot of volunteers come aboard over the year that you haven't seen before?

Jo Anne Rainville: Yes, yes, we've got a list of about 25 volunteers. When I put out a request for people willing to help, the phone started ringing immediately. We could not be achieving what we are without the kindness of the people of Tamworth helping us do it. It's heartwarming.

Rick Ganley: It's got to make you feel really good about the community you're in.

Jo Anne Rainville: Yeah, we even when there was the toilet paper shortage, we were able to get a bunch of cases of toilet paper and send that out with the End 68 Hours of Hunger programs, with the meals that were delivered that went to the food pantry so that they could be adding that to people's bags. And that went out to all of our Meals on Wheels clients every week. You really have to think outside the box when something like this is going on. What do people need?

Rick Ganley: Everybody in Tamworth should get a shirt that says I survived the TP shortage of 2020.

Jo Anne Rainville: That's true. That's true.

Rick Ganley: Is there one thing that you learned about either yourself or Tamworth itself as a community during this pandemic?

Jo Anne Rainville: Well, I've known this community well. I've been the nurse here for 20 years -- the fastest 20 years of my life. But the endurance is` definitely there from the people who are helping us and helping one another. It wasn't just a flash in the pan. Yeah, I'll make that call every day for two weeks. No, they're still making it. You know, eight months later they're still calling people. There's been relationships that have been built and we've learned to think out of the box.

Sadly, the Christmas tree got lit in town, but there weren't any people there singing and caroling. Those are the kinds of things that people are going to miss. But, you know, we're going to have to work it out and we'll get through it. But it's knowing that there's somebody on the other end of the line, somebody that cares. It gives people a lifeline.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.

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