COVID-19 infection preventionist honored for efforts

An infection preventionist at Good Samaritan Society – Miller Pointe in Mandan, North Dakota, Savannah Boltz, RN, has been very busy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been the hardest years that I hope I ever experience in my career. From shutting down visitation to having to call families on an iPad,” says Savannah, who started in health care as a CNA in high school.

“When the pandemic started, you didn’t know how many people were going to survive. You were getting that positive test. You were moving them to a COVID unit, and you didn’t know if they were coming out."

When the long-term care center had an outbreak early on, administrator Kayley Cartmill remembers Savannah’s dedication.

“She came in at 3 a.m. She worked all day. Worked until 12 a.m. that next night," Kayley says. "She was doing anything from contract tracing, moving residents, caring for residents, building a COVID wall. She was doing it all. Willing to help wherever she could to ensure the residents were safe and well cared for during that time."

Savannah 'means the world to me'

Visiting her dad every day at the nursing home, Gayle Ciavarella says Savannah and the team here make everyone feel safe and welcome.

“She feels like part of my family and it means the world to me honestly,” Gayle says. “I’m a person with a lot of questions and she always takes the time."

“Not all people do that. It’s a profession that I had no idea about at all and I think they’re heroes."

Relationships built with residents is part of why Savannah chose to be a nurse in long-term care.

“They become like family because you’re with them every day. You get to know their quirks, their likes, their dislikes. They really get to know you. It’s a home-like environment and that’s what I really like,” Savannah says.

Heart of Health Care Award

The people she cares for and works alongside really like her too.

It’s why Savannah is being recognized with The Bismarck Tribune’s “Nurses: The Heart of Health Care” award.

“To find out that I was being chosen as one of the award winners was unbelievable,” Savannah says. “It means a lot to know that people actually are still paying attention to what we’re doing and noticing a good job. You focus sometimes on the people saying the bad things. Working in health care and being an infection preventionist during a pandemic, not everybody has nice things to say.

"Knowing that there are people out there who still recognize the good and are still there to support you and give you that pat on the back, it really means a lot.

"While many early restrictions from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have eased and family visitation is encouraged, there are still several guidelines to follow to this day.

“We’ve learned over the last few years that COVID-19, it doesn’t care. It picks and chooses who it’s going to make sick and the only way you can slow that down is by trying to slow the spread,” Savannah says. “Thankfully with medications and vaccines and natural immunity that people have made, we are seeing better outcomes.

"Safety protocols still in place are also preventing illness and slowing the spread.

“If you’re going to pick a place that is following the most rules, long-term care is the place to be."

'A boost I think I needed'

Gayle loves being able to see her dad in person these days and visit with Savannah and the staff.

“Very deserving. Very happy for her,” Gayle says about Savannah's honor. “She must have found this her purpose in life because she really is very good at what she does."

Not expecting reward, Savannah admits she cherishes the kind words.

“A boost I think I needed after the last couple of years,” Savannah says.

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