Published August 21, 2020 in Lifestyle Media Group

Lina Puntervold

Nurse and infection control practitioner, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital

Background: Puntervold earned a master’s degree in public health with a minor in epidemiology from the University of South Florida. Having cared for the hospital’s tiniest patients in the neonatal unit, the Broward County resident now dedicates herself to disease-related research, reporting, and education.

Pandemic stories: Puntervold will never forget that March 7 was a Saturday. She was enjoying the weekend at home with her husband and their two children when she received a hospital alert. She was used to being on call; normally a phone discussion or email would satisfy the situation.

This time, she needed to drop what she was doing and report to work.

“I knew that [the need to go to the hospital] meant something else was going on, and my gut said it was related to COVID-19,” Puntervold says. “A few of us had been meeting to discuss strategic planning for Memorial Healthcare System’s six hospitals and how best to approach what was coming down the pike. I thought, ‘This is really happening.’”

JDCH treated 22 pediatric patients with COVID-19 through the first week of July. Through it all, Puntervold’s role has been the creation of protocols ensuring the safety of the people inside the 226-bed hospital, which treats children and adolescents suffering from illnesses ranging from leukemia to heart defects. The hospital has seven operating rooms and an entire floor dedicated to pediatric oncology. Given the presence of newborns and cancer patients—and their weakened immune systems—safety measures must be beyond reproach.

One of the hardest decisions was to set limits on who could visit the sick. As the world’s only children’s hospital to earn the Certification for Excellence in Person-Centered Care from the nonprofit health care consultancy Planetree International, Joe DiMaggio views the presence of a patient’s family and loved ones as essential to the healing process. Usually, there are no visitor restrictions.

“But because of COVID-19, we had a change in policy. We had to make the difficult decision of restricting visits to parents,” she says. “Unlike our sister hospitals, we weren’t going to close our doors to parents.”

At the same time, Puntervold has led communication efforts to educate employees about safety precautions, relying on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since March, CDC recommendations have evolved; Puntervold remembers when masks and eyewear were not universally required.

“A lot of the policies and protocols are constantly moving and changing,” she says. “It’s important to be transparent with the team. I don’t care how many times they ask me questions or call me. It’s my job to ensure that not only do they have the things to be safe, but that they know they are safe.”