Spring on the York College campus

Working in ER

“There are a lot of people cheering us on, and that gets me through it. I can’t fully express what that means to me.”
Alumna Phoebe Schmehl works at an outdoor E.R. tent, dressed in PPE including a robe and mask

Phoebe Schmehl ’17 accepted her current job in the ER at WellSpan York Hospital upon graduation. “I knew the ER was the place for me,” she says. “It’s fast-paced, and I can work with patients who have ailments ranging from a sprained ankle to pregnancy to geriatric needs.” 

When COVID-19 hit southcentral Pennsylvania, Schmehl was put to the task of helping York Hospital’s response. The hospital was one of the first facilities to open outdoor screening tents. She helped develop the workflow that nurses and other medical providers would follow when treating potential COVID-19 patients who came to the hospital. 

The outdoor tents allowed WellSpan to avoid cross-contamination while screening patients. Schmehl’s workflow procedures included following CDC guidelines for creating cold, warm, and hot zones. 

While the ER can be a stressful place to work, the addition of COVID-19 has made stress especially high. When she goes into work, Schmehl doesn’t know if she’ll be working in the screening tent or on the regular ER floor. No matter where she’s working, extra precautions have to be taken because of the possibility that anyone could have the coronavirus, she says.

 The hospital has provided a scrub swap program, where care teams can change in and out of scrubs provided by the hospital that are professionally laundered, decreasing the risk of the illness following them home. Schmehl has found solace in sharing her experience with her boyfriend, also a medic in York, but she misses her family in Allentown. “I used to visit at least once a month, but I haven’t seen them for some time now,” she says. “I don’t want to risk exposing them to anything I might be in contact with at work.” 

Support from the York County community and her teammates at York Hospital have helped Schmehl get through the stressful, long days. “There are a lot of people cheering us on, and that gets me through it,” she says. “I can’t fully express what that means to me.”