Nurses Lead the Way, Provide Vision for Future
May 12 is International Nurses Day, celebrated annually on the birthday of the legendary Florence Nightingale. Known by many as the “lady with the lamp,” Nightingale is credited with ushering in the age of modern nursing, due to her lasting contributions in public health.
On this occasion, Putnam County Executive, MaryEllen Odell, is praising the nurses and nursing staff at the health department, saying, “Our public health nurses have showed a devotion to our residents and endurance to the task at hand, not witnessed often. Our community and our economy are headed in the right direction, and it is through their hard work, and their leadership and collaboration with other agencies and partners that we have been able to achieve this.”
Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, agreed, noting further that, “Our nursing staff has received many thanks and accolades from residents over the past year. First efforts were focused on COVID testing and case investigations, but since January of this year they have been rolling out vaccines as well, for which the appreciations have been pouring in. The immunization process started off slowly with limited supplies, but now there is enough vaccine for all adults.”
Nursing staff members at the health department have clocked more than 35,000 hours since the COVID-19 pandemic began, often working late into the night and on weekends. At the helm of this qualified and relentless team is Kathy Percacciolo, RN, the supervising public health nurse.
“The staff has been extraordinary, working late and giving up weekends without a complaint,” said Ms. Percacciolo. “We may be tired, but we will not slow down our efforts to end this pandemic. Public health professionals have long been concerned about and preparing for a pandemic. And now today, with COVID vaccinations, we see hope in sight. As we continue to put shots in people’s arms, we ask that everyone continue to remain vigilant a bit longer. Masking and social distancing must continue as we are not out of the woods. In addition, we could not have come this far without the support of our wonderful Medical Reserve Corps volunteers that has included nurses. Their presence at each of our more than 40 vaccination clinics has allowed us to immunize over 15,000 residents and counting.
“Additional support from our County Executive MaryEllen Odell and her office, the Bureau of Emergency Services, and the Highway and Planning Departments has helped smooth the way with the numerous logistical challenges we have faced in our response,” Ms. Percacciolo continued. “It is not something we at the health department could have managed without this team effort.”
The team effort continues, with the ultimate goal to achieve herd immunity: the point where virus transmission dwindles because vaccinated people greatly outnumber unvaccinated people. Even ahead of herd immunity, Ms. Percacciolo reminds us, “The best way to look at it is simple: the more people who are immunized, the better everyone is protected. And our health department will not stop promoting vaccination and educating people on vaccine safety, until we get as many people vaccinated as possible. The higher our community vaccination numbers, the more protection we offer those most vulnerable, and that is what public health is all about.”
The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.