Saint-Amour in heart of pandemic as Mayo Clinic’s Intensive Care Unit supervisor
Generally, Shae (Miller) Saint-Amour (WC ’08) looks forward to summer but this summer has been like none other for the Intensive Care Unit supervisor of the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.
In late June, Arizona became the epicenter of COVID-19, according to the Washington Post. The Worldometer website states Arizona has the seventh-highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States with 216,826 reported cases and 5,622 deaths as of Sept. 27.
“Usually in the summer, we don’t have as many patients and we’re able to close down a pod to get it cleaned,” said Saint-Amour, who has been working in the Mayo Clinic ICU since July, 2014 and has served as the unit’s supervisor since May, 2017. “This summer, we didn’t have enough beds for patients, so we had to convert other areas in the hospital for the overflow.
“What we have going on is so different from what we’ve seen before. It has completely changed what we do on a daily basis.”
According to Saint-Amour, the clinic deals with various strains of coronavirus every year, so she did not know what to expect when she started to hear about this latest outbreak.
“A lot of us were thinking ‘Okay, what’s different about this one?’” she said. “We didn’t know whether the media was exaggerating this or not.
“I remember coming home from my grandmother’s funeral in February and things were starting to get really bad in Europe. I remember thinking, ‘This is real. We have to start preparing for it for it but hopefully it will never come.’”
The pandemic has challenged Saint-Amour in two ways as the ICU supervisor. First off, she has to make sure her team has the right resources to combat the virus.
“We’re working day and night to make sure they have enough gowns and masks so they can continue caring for the patients,” she said. “We’ve made some changes while working with our infectious control teams.”
Secondly, Saint-Amour is working to make sure her team is coping with the various stresses the virus brings.
“I need to support my staff as well as the patients,” she added. “People are starting to do studies on the mental health of caregivers. The things we’ve seen this year have been traumatizing to say the least.”
To maintain a positive outlook, health care providers need a strong support system. Saint-Amour said her inner circle of friends includes many of her Worthington Christian classmates.
“I still talk with some of my best friends from high school,” she said. “Worthington Christian provided me with a foundation of people I can talk with. I can’t imagine not having that kind of foundation. I’ve seen a lot of spiritual need among my colleagues and I’ve seen staff members break down when they don’t have that (support).”
Family is the core of Saint-Amour’s inner circle. Saint-Amour married Justin, who asked her out on her first week in Arizona, on Oct. 22, 2016. The two added a baby girl, Adeline, into the mix a year ago.
“So I’ve been dealing with all of this pandemic stuff with a one-year-old,” she added with a laugh.
To be a good supervisor, Saint-Amour said she has to become a servant leader.
“Obviously, it involves a lot of leadership skills,” she said. “I hold people accountable to make sure they’re following procedure and guidelines, so they are living up to our motto: ‘Where patients come first.’ I love listening to my staff, sitting in on meetings and advocating for my staff.
“On the other hand, part of my job is making sure my team has all the right resources, so they can provide that extra layer of care that people expect from the Mayo Clinic.”