Bennington nurse advocates for marginalized patients during pandemic

Vermont

Patty Johnson is being honored for her work in advocating for marginalized patients throughout the pandemic, specifically the BIPOC community.

“I felt that I needed to be the voice,” she said. “I needed to speak for those who were not strong enough yet to speak for themselves.”

As an ER nurse, Patty Johnson says she’s the eyes and ears for her patients, responsible for relaying things like socioeconomic status and mental health needs. With the onset of COVID-19, it became more apparent that some groups are disproportionately at risk for the virus. This got Johnson talking about health equity.

“Really you just conversate with people and you let them steer you in the direction of healthcare and where they would like to go,” Johnson said.

Data shows, Vermonters who are black, indigenous or people of color represent 6% of the state’s population, but 18% of COVID-19 cases. Aware of these disparities, Johnson made sure she was connecting patients with existing resources. She also created a Facebook page to reach more people, and let them know help is there. Rory Price has worked alongside Patty on the hospital’s diversity and inclusion committee and community outreach team.

“She asks tough questions, she holds everyone accountable to make sure we’re providing really the best care to all members of our community,” Price said. “To hear her ideas for innovation and to do things better, shes just such a creative thinker in that regard.”

Johnson says the vaccine rollout didn’t quite meet the need of this group either. Now, she’s working overtime to help spread the word and connect people to vaccine sites, serving as the primary contact for the Bennington and Rutland regions.

“If they’re not ready yet to receive the vaccine, well lets talk about why the vaccine is so important,” Johnson said, “Are there other health issues, commodities that put you at risk for other colds and viruses? “Usually by the end they’re like ‘You changed my mind, I want the vaccine.'”

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