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Justin Bryant Finds Joy During The Pandemic By Helping Patients

(Courtesy Citizens Memorial Hospital)

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Bryant's last name. This story has been edited to reflect that correction. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the category of front line workers that has received the most attention—and rightfully so—is the healthcare profession. The first ones you think of in that category are, of course, doctors and nurses. 

But there are hundreds of workers in the healthcare sector whose jobs are less visible, more behind-the-scenes.                                                                   

Justin Bryant is Plant Facilities Assistant Supervisor for Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Missouri.

What does a job like that involve?  According to Bryant, it’s all about “maintaining the environments which staff and patients utilize throughout each and every day." 

He said this includes “ensuring that air handlers are working appropriately; the medical equipment that's in direct contact with the patients is working appropriately; and plenty of support from me or my staff is readily available, with the chaotic nature that we're living in right now.”

Justin Bryant, and the other plant facilities workers at CMH, have to spend their days in and out of not just public spaces in the hospital, but also hospital rooms—including those designated for, and occupied by, coronavirus patients.

Their needs require special skills and equipment. It’s the responsibility of people like Justin Bryant to, as he says, “ensure the integrity of the space” occupied by the COVID-19 patient.

“We monitor the room pressurization, because all of those patients reside in a negative air pressure space,” Bryant said.

According to Bryant, maintaining negative air pressure in those rooms is actually vital for the health of those outside the COVID patient rooms.

"Yyu have a certain amount of air that comes into the room. Well, we've got to remove that air to a safe exterior location—whether that be through the roof, through an exhaust fan or through a window—and discharge that air into an area that is not accessible by the public. I mean, obviously you wouldn't want that contaminated air discharging right into a passer-by!”

What has changed the most in Bryant's job

“I would say probably the largest change is the workload and trying to create solutions for whatever need comes up, within—we're not talking daily, we're talking hourly changes. So I would have to say that the biggest change is to be flexible, every minute of every day, to dealing with creating a space that's safe for a patient, or working with a staff member to get their equipment back online so that they can complete the proper treatment for that patient. I don't think really anything's changed. It's just the demand has changed," Bryant said.

“So for me personally,” Bryant continued, “each level of care that's being administered to those COVID patients is high priority or life or death. Because I know if I'm not maintaining that room pressure correctly, or if that piece of equipment isn't calibrated accurately, am I displaying the wrong information to the staff member that's viewing it?”

What emotions the pandemic has evoked

When asked what kinds of emotions he has felt during the many months of the pandemic, Justin Bryant’s answer was interesting.  He named three primary emotions: fear, sadness… and joy.

“The fear at first of just the unknown, was overwhelming. You know:  what if I get it, what's that going to do to my family? How much work am I going to miss? How am I going to be able to maintain the facilities that I manage?"  Bryant said.

"And then once we kind of got the ball rolling, you know, the sadness that kind of set in, with an understanding or maybe the empathy that I would have for those patients and the family members that are wanting to see those patients, because, you know, at some points we have visitor restrictions. And so, I just feel sad for them," Bryant said.

"And then, joy is probably the strongest emotion I’ve felt, because CMH has just been good to me even before COVID. And to see how strong they are during this COVID pandemic just fills me with warmth, knowing that I have a support team, an administrative group, and just all the tools that I need to achieve the goal. Knowing that I have the support and those tools, is just mind-blowing to me,” Bryant said.

In other words, Justin feels the hospital administrators, and all the various team members, have his back.

And he enjoys an equal amount of support for the job he’s performing from his family.  They well understand the challenges, but much of his family is involved in healthcare as well.

“My family is majority health care, so we work in some fashion within the health care community. So if anything, my family, we're supportive of each other. I mean, we work in different fields, and we share our stories and we support each other. And not only to have the support while at work, to go home and have that family support makes it so much better," Bryant said.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.