How COVID-19 Changed the AT Norm

April 29, 2020 by Elizabeth Quinn

During the COVID-19 pandemic, athletic trainers have stepped up to help their local health care systems in multiple ways, including screening, telemedicine and infrastructure. NATA will share what athletic trainers everywhere are doing to care for their patients, communities and themselves during this time.

In Lexington, South Carolina, schools began to close and move online due to COVID-19 in March. Secondary school athletic trainer Sheila Gordon, MEd, ATC, SCAT, took it upon herself to hand out school lunches to the kids that depended on the schools for their meals. She’s continuing to help students in any way she can during this new e-learning time, but has also embraced the slowness the pandemic has brought.

How are you staying in contact with your student athletes/patients?

Collaborating with our strength and conditioning coach, I post daily workouts for our student athletes. We try to get them engaged by requesting that they post their #sweatyselfies just to make it a little more fun while holding them accountable as well. I have a link on our athletic website under our sports medicine tab that has resources for basic rehabilitation and preventative exercises. I am holding some virtual visits over Google Meets and Zoom with some of our post-op patients and others that have requested additional help from our athletic training staff. I have emailed specific rehab programs to specific cases that need more individual assistance to help keep them motivated and on track.

What advice, guidance or instruction have you given them? Are there resources that have been helpful or would be helpful to have in this regard?

More than anything else, I have tried to provide our student athletes with resources to maintain their physical and mental health. We’ve tried to encourage our athletes and find ways to provide laughter in their day.

How are you volunteering in your community and why did you decide to use your time/skills in this way?

Our food services manager sent out an email as soon as we found out that school was going to an e-learning platform. I immediately volunteered to help hand out meals to our students. Our cafeteria staff and transportation staff put together a plan to feed any student who wanted a meal. They offered pick up locations if parents wanted to pick up meals for the day, and we also went to several different locations throughout our attendance area to deliver to those that may not have had transportation to the schools.

I decided to help just simply because, as an athletic trainer, I feel like we have a helping spirit. I’m so glad I decided to volunteer just to see the smiles on kids’ faces as the buses pulled up to the various locations.

What has been a positive part of this experience for you? Where do you find the bright spot in times like this?

People (students and parents) have been so thankful for the additional meals and extra help provided by teachers. I think parents have a new appreciation for teachers and administrators. The brightest spot for me has been seeing so many families spending time together. I know that it has been a struggle for parents to have the students at home and having to help them with their schoolwork; but I have seen more families riding bikes together, walking together, putting puzzles together, painting rocks and finding ways to celebrate each other during this time.

Did you have any challenges getting involved as an AT? How did you overcome these challenges?

The only challenge I had was my own medical history. I took as many precautions as possible by wearing masks, gloves, distancing and hand washing. Once the virus seemed to be spiking, I had to take a step back because of my own medical history. Otherwise, people are very thankful for the additional help.

What are you doing to take care of yourself and stay connected with your local community, athletic training community, friends and family?

I have learned to embrace the “slowness.” Even though I miss our athletes and coaches, I have learned to put myself first and finish projects around my house that I have been putting off due to work. I have stayed connected with my peers over Zoom and Google Meets, so we have had meetings where we can see each other’s’ faces. I think that’s important. My friends and I have been having virtual happy hours. I miss my family that live in Georgia, but we have also used FaceTime to see their faces.

What encouragement would you give your fellow ATs during this time?

I hear a lot of ATs stating how much they miss their athletes and the business. Even though I think that’s great, I also would encourage ATs to use this time to spend with their families and enjoy their time. Take the time to read a book, watch a movie and do some things that are not AT related. The business will return, and you may not have another opportunity to enjoy the “slow.”