When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in 2020, health care workers across the globe were struck with a wave of newfound anxiety – including those at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip.
As the number of coronavirus cases hiked, New York State Department of Health guidelines changed rapidly, which made it difficult for health care workers to keep up.
Luckily, employees at Good Samaritan had a multitude of professionals that offered their guidance during the first wave of COVID-19. That group was led in part by infection prevention and control director Kathy DiBenedetto.
“The biggest struggle we had in the beginning was the anxiety of our staff and making sure that they were safe taking care of our patients,” DiBenedetto said. “We had to be sure that we spoke with them, got the message out, and made sure it was clear and consistent. We needed them to trust us.”
DiBenedetto not only prioritized hospital staff in 2020 – she actively worked to teach proper infection precautions to local organizations, businesses and school districts. She continues these practices today.
This year, The Islip Bulletin and its sister papers exclusively honored health care professionals who were on the front lines of the pandemic. Her continued commitment to the hospital and Islip community is why we’ve selected Kathy DiBenedetto as our Islip Bulletin 2020 Inspiration Award winner.
DiBenedetto joined the hospital in 2013 after serving as a critical care nurse for nearly 20 years. With 39 years in the industry, she said she “never anticipated anything like the coronavirus.”
In late February 2020, DiBenedetto said her team was at the hospital for roughly 16 hours each day, staying on top of ever-changing coronavirus safety guidelines.
“It started slow – but within a week or two, the patients just kept coming,” she recalled.
Shortly thereafter, DiBenedetto said the hospital’s critical care unit, which housed many COVID-19 patients, was expanded to two floors. Nonessential surgeries were put on pause, and staff was reassigned to different areas in the building.
All the while, DiBenedetto was working to share information about the virus and promote healthy habits during the pandemic. She’s participated in conference calls with local chambers of commerce and other organizations; visited the Alfonse M. D'Amato U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip and educated groups on safety measures; and even presented at the virtual webinar “Coping with COVID,” led by the West Islip School District, in November.
Now, even as hospitals face the second wave and more contagious strain of the virus, DiBenedetto continues to be a regular presence at Good Samaritan. She keeps staff in the loop and works with clinical unit leaders and physicians to keep everyone safe. Her community-based education persists, too.
DiBenedetto – who was on the verge of tears upon finding out about her nomination – credits her efforts to her team of nurses and hospital president Ruth Hennessey, who organized meetings twice a day to keep staff updated on the virus.
“Without their hard work and dedication, we can’t do the things we do every day: taking care of our patients and keeping our staff safe,” DiBenedetto said.