It’s quite fitting that National Superhero Day falls this week in 2020, the same week that Symetra Tour player Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan) puts away her Callaway clubs, dons a face mask and other required personal protective equipment (PPE) to return to her job as a nurse at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
“I’m going to stay with a coworker, so I don’t put my parents at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Hoffman, who lives in the greater Atlanta, Ga., area. “The sacrifices are different in golf and nursing. Golf leans toward an individual focus and you have to think about yourself as No. 1. Nursing is all about the patient and how I can go the extra mile to make them the most comfortable. After a season on the links it’s nice to get back to this other career I chose, to gain perspective. I feel fortunate in helping make a difference and that it allows for a steady paycheck. While I am on the front lines, the efforts of people following ‘stay at home’ orders have truly made an immediate impact.”
Following a finish of 69th at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic to open the Symetra Tour season in March, Hoffman returned to the Peach State in search of a contract as a travel nurse. It never came. She’s now back to her roots, where Hoffman has worked on the orthopedic trauma unit since February 2014.
When the pandemic first made a ripple in the American healthcare landscape, COVID-19 patients at Michigan Medicine were cared for in the regional infectious containment unit (RICU). As that unit became overwhelmed, COVID-19 patients spread throughout the hospital including Hoffman’s unit.
Most orthopedic surgery is elective. And with all the unknowns about COVID-19, all elective cases have been postponed. Knee and hip replacements are off the books until further notice.
“My floor normally staffs at 10 nurses and everyone has four patients with a charge [lead] nurse,” said Hoffman after her first shift back since December. “During the recent peak of the pandemic, Michigan Medicine implemented a safer staffing model including general care nurses deployed to intensive care unit (ICU) operations where a majority of COVID-19 patients were. The allocation of resources meant an increased patient load for general care nurses that remained on their home units. Everyone realized we had to come together as a strong, united front to provide the best possible care for all.”
A three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Division II All-American for Grand Valley State University, Hoffman graduated in August 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. Over her final five semesters, she balanced full-time clinical work with responsibilities of being a student-athlete.
Even though Hoffman has the experience, skills and resources to make a difference, she anticipates a lot of changes and learning opportunities. She credits her unit’s nurse educator and management team for providing daily updates on the fast-paced changes surrounding COVID-19. It has allowed for a smoother transition to understanding more about a previously unknown virus.
“It’s like the first tee jitters at Qualifying School, a certain amount of anxiety because I want to perform at the highest level—shooting under par, or taking the best care of my patients,” said Hoffman. “A patient could come in with shortness of breath, requiring supplemental oxygen. Within hours they might require intubation, in which the patient is no longer breathing on their own. If that is needed on my floor, you initiate a rapid response team—ICU nurses, a respiratory therapist and primary service doctor. Those seconds before they arrive is like you’re in slow motion while everything speeds up around you.”
Furthermore, the patient population is different for Hoffman and all the other nurses on her floor. While they may come into contact with COVID-19 patients, those battling other diseases or conditions are now interspersed throughout.
“Even in non-emergency situations, it’s a challenge when taking care of a patient population that I’m not used to,” Hoffman said. “When you get to the first tee on the golf course and know you put in the work, you have the confidence, but anything can change in the round. This sort of new normal we are facing in the hospital right now is just like that. You’ve prepared to help the patients you expect on your unit, but now there is some unknown of what they are facing and how to provide the best care for them. I am so thankful to work with an amazing team that has become an even stronger family to each other and our patients. Everyone in the community may have a different role, but everyone is sacrificing in some way and it is truly inspiring to see people from all walks of life come together to give us a fighting chance.”
The most updated restart to the 2020 Symetra Tour season is July 8-10 in Maineville, Ohio for the Prasco Charity Championship, as long as local and national health guidelines allow that to happen. Hoffman will remain on the front lines until her name is called on the first tee. Then it will be time to dust off the Callaways and return once more to her non-superhero identity: professional golfer on the Symetra Tour.