Photo of Kathy Jones with three others
Faculty Feature

Kathryn Jones, Assistant PA Program Director, Focuses on Frontline Bright Spots in Coronavirus Fight

Photo of Kathy Jones with three others

Kathy Jones is on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic as a physician assistant. Here are the things that keep her positive during difficult times.

Kathy Jones and her husband are a coronavirus-fighting team. Jones, the Assistant Program Director at the MCPHS School of Physician Assistant Studies, spends some time each month working as a PA in the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton. Her husband is a 911 dispatcher in Belmont—working from home was never an option for him. Between the two of them, they've been very much on the pandemic's front lines and have seen the effects of coronavirus up close and personal. It’s been tiring and stressful.

Kathy and her emergency room team are facing things that none of them ever have before. Even before the flood of patients, which has strained health systems across the country, Jones said that she and her ER colleagues experienced a sort of pre-traumatic stress as they anticipated the surge. It was a surreal and bizarre experience to be waiting for tragedy and disaster on such a large scale. And once patients arrived, Jones says, they were incredibly sick. They came in droves, fighting for their lives. She's seen illness and sadness and bad outcomes. But she chooses to focus on the bright moments when she can.

One of those bright spots is resilience. The entire team at St. Elizabeth’s has been inspiring, Jones says, and they haven't missed a beat. Despite the anxiety that pervaded the ER during the lead-up, “Everybody stepped up," once the pandemic arrived. "Everyone was like, ‘We’re ready for this.’ At no point did anyone say, ‘I’m outta here. I can’t deal with it.’...We’re all in it." It's been a proud time for Kathy to be a PA.

That resilience, however—the very act of being there—comes with obvious risks. And for one of the ER's doctors, the risk played out. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was instructed to stay home. But his symptoms got worse. And worse. Until "he was in our ICU, intubated," Jones says, literally being treated by his colleagues. He was not in good shape, and Kathy says that the unit expected the worst. But he turned out to be one of the lucky ones. Being treated in his own unit, by his own team, he made an amazing recovery. "And I was able to be there when they discharged him," Kathy says. "He made it out of the hospital, and it was one of the most wonderful moments. Up until that point it was touch-and-go for him. We didn’t think he was going to make it. But he survived, and it was one of the most awesome things to see.”

Jones also sees silver linings outside the hospital—acts of kindness, gratitude, and patience. One such moment came for her at a Starbucks. “I was wearing my the end of the line, and a guy was right up at the counter—the line was probably five or six people deep—and he stepped out and said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘No, no I’m okay.’ He said, ‘Nope. I love you people, you took really good care of my mom. I really think you healthcare workers are doing a great job.”

It's not often, during normal times, that people buy coffee for a fellow human being based on their uniform. Maybe during times of war—and the pandemic is a sort of war. That's why Jones focuses so intently on the good that comes out of it, however bad the rest of it might be.