By Margo C. Pope
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh story in The Record’s annual “10 That Make A Difference” series in which we spotlight people who have made a difference in our community.
10 who make the difference
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most offices to close and employees to work remotely, Jessica DuFresne was not one of them. She worked in the Emergency Care Center at Flagler Hospital as a nurse manager.
A registered nurse, DuFresne, 35, is one of 10 People Making a Difference in St. Johns County recognized by the St. Augustine Record.
The pandemic very early on presented many challenges for hospital staff in patient care.
“Every day you walked in there was something new to learn or polish…” she said. “It was new to everyone and we were all learning at a rapid pace.”
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Nangela Pulfsus, Executive Vice President of Patient Care Services and Clinical Director of Flagler Health +, described DuFresne as “a very successful young nurse, very patient-oriented, a very humble person.”
In his role as Emergency Operations Manager, DuFresne is part of Flagler’s Incident Command Unit. Pulfsus gave the following examples of DuFresne’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- She and her team established the hospital’s COVID testing program so the public did not have to come to the emergency room. “She’s done a good job minimizing this process so the person never has to leave their car,” Pulfsus said.
- She organized a 10-bed emergency room unit at the onset of COVID for emergency room patients with symptoms of COVID, so they were not part of the general population.
- “She was also running an active emergency service through two outbreaks of COVID,” Pulfsus said.
“I like operations and setting up processes,” DuFresne said of his role. Many departments – ER, Laboratory, Recording, Observation – came together for outdoor testing.
“Sometimes when we think of COVID we only think of emergencies or intensive care, but it took everyone’s coming together to make it work. As a leader I can’t do it without the team so they deserve everything, ”she said.
One of the first test successes was when more than 300 cars showed up and all tests were completed in less than four hours, she said.
As COVID increased demand for more staff inside the hospital, Flagler partnered with St. Johns County Fire Rescue to administer the tests, she said.
After 14 months, said DuFresne, “although the numbers have dropped dramatically, COVID is still here, and it has changed the way we do medicine.”
In addition to infectious disease protocols regarding COVID, staff know that emergency room patients can come with more than a medical problem.
“People may have lost their jobs or maybe their spouses cannot work because of COVID, or they are taking care of their family members,” she said. “We have resources to help through Care Connect (a community alliance), but they may not know how to network them. So when they arrive, we can take care of the whole package, not just what they came to the emergency room for, with regard to medical complaints. “
DuFresne will still be in emergency medicine. When she was in nursing school, she worked weekends as an emergency room technician. There she met her husband, Morgan DuFresne, in 2007. He worked weekends as an ECG technician. He is completing his residency in emergency medicine at Tampa General Hospital. He begins working in an emergency medicine practice in Northeast Florida later this year.
“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be in the ER,” said Jessica DuFresne. “It’s just our culture, maybe we’re a different breed I’m not sure, but I like it. We have a special opportunity to take care of patients when they are having their worst day and to help give hope that day. I can’t see myself not being in the ER.
Husband: Morgan DuFresne; daughter-in-law, Shae DuFresne; daughter, Avery DuFresne, another child on the way; parents: James and Mary Henson, East Palatka. Mary works in medical records at Flagler Hospital.
Flagler Hospital Emergency Care Center Nurse
What motivated you in your career
In fourth grade, I wrote that I wanted to be a nurse. I had an aunt (Carolyn Davis) who was an LPN working in an emergency room in South Florida. She inspired me.
What advice did you give to your colleagues during the pandemic
Encouragement. You did it! You’ve successfully completed over a year in what will likely be the craziest year of your medical career. Stand tall with pride knowing that you have touched so many patients and families in a year when so many needed you.