Meeting the Moment in Chicago: Craig Baumgartner
Prior to COVID-19, Craig Baumgartner, DMSc ‘20, MBA, MPAS, PA-C had been working full-time in surgical practice with NorthShore University HealthSystem, in Glenview, Illinois; and part-time with Premise Health, Chicago O’Hare Airport.
PA Baumgartner: In my full-time position with NorthShore University HealthSystem, in Glenview, Illinois, I have been covering the surgery service, which includes general, trauma, urology, vascular, plastics and orthopedic.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed things in your hospital setting?
PA Baumgartner: The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in our 5-hospital system canceling all surgeries. Any patients who present to the ER at my hospital and need emergency surgical intervention are now going to be transferred to another hospital in our system. All surgical PAs at my hospital will be staffing triage tents, ER, hospitalist, and ICU services. My hospital has been designated as the “respiratory hospital” within our system.
What used to be the surgical floor has been converted to a negative pressure COVID-19 unit. One N95 mask is assigned to each staff member that will be in contact with patients; the masks are to be reused unless they become soiled.
I feel fortunate to have previous triage, ER, hospitalist, and ICU experience; the majority of my surgical PA colleagues do not. I will be helping my colleagues learn these different areas of medicine as we take care of the COVID-19 patients together.
Q: What are you seeing at Chicago O’Hare Airport?
PA Baumgartner: I also have a part-time position with Premise Health, Chicago O’Hare Airport. I am the only provider in the clinic when I work, providing emergency, urgent, primary care, international medicine, and occupational health to United Airline employees.
As a response to the pandemic, we are limiting staff contact with patients and implementing telehealth services. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients have presented to the clinic with ENT and upper respiratory complaints, in addition to work-related injuries, chest pain, and shortness of breath. We have no way of determining which patients simply have an upper respiratory infection or COVID-19, so we do not see any patients with these complaints now.
Airline flight crew have previously come straight to the clinic after departing the plane, returning from other countries. I have been updating the clinic medical director about the coronavirus for months now.
Q: What PA guidelines and oversight have you helped shape?
PA Baumgartner: I have participated in dozens of conference calls and online meetings recently at national, state and local levels. Topics have included the AAPA elections, cancellation of the AAPA conference, Homeland Security, treatment of COVID-19 patients in critical care units, ventilators & ECMO, telemedicine, changes in State of Illinois EMS protocols, impact of the current situation on our local schools and businesses, and preparation of hospitals and clinics.
Q; How do you see this worldwide crisis affecting individuals in the healthcare professions?
PA Baumgartner: Understandably, we are all stressed. The rate of infection of healthcare providers is higher than the rate of infection of the general population, and experience has been that the mortality rate is higher as well. The DMSc program has helped prepare me for this, as I am now comfortable with researching and interpreting the medical literature.
Q: How did the DMSc Program help prepare you for this moment?
PA Baumgartner: The Global Health Issues and Disaster Medicine courses provided an excellent introduction to our current situation, and could not have been more appropriately timed as I just completed both courses.
Other courses in the DMSc program have helped my approach to the current situation as well. I know that I would not be considering the impact of the current situation from a Health Law, Organizational Behavior and Leadership, and Healthcare Administration perspective if I had not had those courses.
My Practicum was based on my work in the community with Emergency and Disaster Management and working with police, fire, EMS and the Office of Emergency Management on preparedness. My doctoral project was “Application of Chaos Theory to Medicine” — I don’t think I could have chosen a more appropriate subject to study for the last year.
Q: Any words of encouragement?
PA Baumgartner: Please stay healthy everyone. Be kind, help each other, and have faith. We will get through this.