Still at Work — with Sarah Gritter

Many people from all three Grace Church locations are working as front-line employees—whether in grocery stores, hospitals, labs, restaurants, or public safety roles around this area. On the other hand, many of us have been safely at home, wondering what it’s like and how we can help. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing from essential workers in multiple areas as they help us answer those questions.

This week, we hear from Sarah Gritter, an emergency medicine physician and member of Grace Ann Arbor.

Christine: First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about what you do?

Sarah: Sure. So my name is Sarah Gritter, and I’m an emergency medicine physician. I work primarily in Livonia at St Mary’s Hospital. And then I’m also the director of quality. So my role is about clinical where I’m working shift seeing patients in the emergency room and then about one third administrative or also a teaching hospital so part of my job too is teaching residents and medical students, things like that. So, overall I love my job, I actually feel really blessed to be able to do what I do.

Where I am in Livonia we’ve actually been hit really hard with COVID. I don’t know if that’s because we’re in Wayne County and closer to Detroit or the fact that Livonia is a very elderly population and we actually have about 25 senior living facilities that surround our hospital, but either way we’ve somehow ended up being kind of a vulnerable area and have seen a lot of COVID cases. So there was a huge need for us to figure out quickly how to take care of these patients, and then also to be able to still continue to take care of patients that needed care that wasn’t related to COVID, and be able to do it all safely.

Part of every physician’s job is to do continuing medical education and stay up to date, but this is the first time in my career where literally things have been changing (it seems like) by the hour, so we’ve been constantly reading and learning and trying to learn from each other. And you know that has been a big part of my time over the last two months. Another big part (and it’s definitely I think gotten some media attention too) is trying to procure all the PPE that we needed as well. A lot of stuff was donated from the community which was amazing. A lot of people in my group were able to get stuff through different connections and, you know, I can honestly say at this time like we sort of have a new normal that feels safe and okay to practice in. When I go to work I don’t worry as much as I used to. I mean, it’s a little uncomfortable having to wear all this stuff all the time. But I feel like we’re able to take care of patients safely now and people can get the care that they need.

C: That is so encouraging to hear. That’s awesome. And how have you seen God working over the past few weeks through this situation?

S: I would say the biggest thing is honestly through people. You know, part of my job is administrative and so over the years I’ve been involved in lots of meetings and sometimes there can be lots of disagreement and anger. What I’ve seen over the past two months is just so much positive attitude and people coming to these meetings with just a helpful heart. I feel like witnessing all of this servant attitude really reminds me of Jesus. And being able to see that in my co workers and even in the community, like so many people have brought in donations of supplies or food.

You know, part of this pandemic there’s lots of talks that I have to have or that we have to have with patients and family members kind of regarding death and dying. And these are never easy conversations. But I’ve done them, you know, hundreds of times over the years and there’s been times too where, you know, people get angry and they get upset and I’m not saying that they’re not emotional now, but what I honestly have seen with all the conversations that I have had—and they’re even more challenging now because mostly they’re over the phone now or video chats which you know is just kind of different—but people for the most part, have been showing gratitude and love, and they. And I know that you know this is kind of God’s way of helping me and providing some comfort when I’m doing what I think is kind of a hard thing to do, but also providing comfort to these patients and their families as they, you know, figure this out and kind of make decisions for these end stages of their lives. Knowing that God is with me, and He’s with my patients, and He loves all of us is just really comforting.

C: And how can we be supporting you and other essential workers right now?

S: I would say, keep praying for the people who are on the front line, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them to let them know that you’re doing that. I personally have felt like that’s been really encouraging to me and a lot of times I get these texts or whatever at just the perfect time. And then, really, the second thing is to take good care of yourself. Unfortunately, what I’m starting to see now is people coming in to the emergency room after neglecting medical needs that they’ve had because they’ve been scared to come in or didn’t feel like it was important enough for them to come in, and this can be both physical needs but also mental illness. You know, starting to see that kind of spiraling out of control after sort of being in isolation, and so I would tell people, if you need to come in, come in. It’s safe, and we’re there to take care of you. And it’s much easier for us to handle these things if they are established early on, rather than waiting too long. We have processes now to keep people safe, and it’s important as a community that we continue to take care of ourselves too.