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Nicole Dann-Payne, a professor in the food and nutrition department, continues to help IRMC fight COVID-19 while educating students through online classes.

On April 22, IUP’s The Beak featured IUP faculty member Nicole Dann-Payne as one of many health professionals putting their lives on the line to help others. 

Dann-Payne was already an employee of Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) before the pandemic occurred. She has a part-time position at IRMC’s Institute for Healthy Living and Corporate Wellness as a registered dietitian nutritionist. When the pandemic struck, IRMC decided its employees would act as screeners for various facilities. IRMC officials reassigned Dann-Payne and other employees to screen people 25 to 30 hours a week. 

Dann-Payne has spent the past few weeks screening people who come into the IRMC in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations. She helps patients who come to IRMC seeking treatment and those who think they may have the virus based on signs and symptoms. 

“I feel like it’s become easier over time, as we have all learned more about COVID-19,” Dann-Payne said. “At first, it was somewhat different since it was such a new process for everyone, but our screening instructions or algorithm has not changed since March 30, so that has helped with the process.” 

Although it’s a dangerous job being on the frontline helping people who may already be sick with the virus, it’s a responsibility Dann-Payne is taking on because she wants to help the greater Indiana community. 

“I believe screening anyone who enters the hospital facilities protects the patients within our facilities,” she said, “along with our employees, and therefore our community.”

Like most establishments, IRMC has regulations for its patients and anyone who enters the facility to wear a mask. If they don’t have one, IRMC provides one.

Although the job itself puts employees like Dann-Payne at risk for catching the virus, she believes the community and people in general are grateful and appreciative of the work she and other health professionals are providing. 

“Most patients are thankful for what we are doing,” she said. “The community has shown so much support toward the hospital. I also feel that over time, people have become more understanding of the situation as more and more people arrive wearing masks.”

The outreach IRMC has provided toward larger companies, screening workers in the county, has been positive. 

“Most employees are receptive, understanding and appreciative of the screening work we are doing,” Dann-Payne said. “I think it provides some reassurance for people.” 

Dann-Payne provided information on what to do if individuals feel they may be ill with the coronavirus. 

“If individuals feel that they may be ill with COVID-19, they should contact their physician,” she said. “If they do not have a physician, the PA Health Department has a phone number for people to call for advice. 

“From there, their physician may order them a COVID-19 test dependent on symptoms. However, if individuals arrive at the hospital with a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they are sent to a ‘respiratory screening tent’ that is located outside the emergency department, and from there, medical experts determine if an individual requires a COVID-19 test.”

And everyone should follow health and safety protocols from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that say to wear masks in public spaces and practice social distancing, as well as wash hands frequently. 

Dann-Payne is an instructor for IUP’s department of food and nutrition and is the sports performance nutrition services director and like most professors, is teaching all her courses online. 

“I feel for everyone right now including patients and my students,” Dann-Payne said. “I’m trying my best to be as empathetic as I can be since I just don’t know how they may feel or what they’re going through or managing. I’m trying to be as helpful and as I can be for my students. This situation has been challenging for everyone.” 

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