When COVID-19 reached the Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the uncertainty hit its frontline health care workers hard.

“There's been a lot more fear and death that we've all experienced. A lot of despair,” said Julie Bowen, an ICU nurse at Sky Lakes. “I think the hardest part has been the lack of control. If you come into the hospital with a stroke or a heart attack, we know how to help you, we have a plan of care.”

In the early days of COVID, that wasn’t the case.

Sky Lakes, the sole medical center in a 10,000-square-mile area, was placed under pressure as COVID-19 began to affect its service area of more than 80,000 people in south-central Oregon and northern California. Faced with increasing hospitalization and the challenge of orchestrating a vaccine rollout program, its infrastructure and frontline staff found themselves, like so many others across the country and the world, in an unprecedented situation.

But slowly, despair gave way to “determination and grit,” Bowen said. “We decided … not to let COVID kick our ass anymore.”

And they were prepared. Powered by Cisco technology, the rural hospital was able to innovate quickly and support the increase in patients. The hospital protected its staff by using robots and communication systems to minimize exposure to the virus. In addition, the Cisco tech enabled the hospital to set up drive-through areas for COVID testing in a matter of days.

“Cisco technology has helped us become more efficient,” Bowen said. “And they’ve also helped us safely monitor and store all of our vaccines.”

Bowen, who has been a nurse for over 17 years, says since the vaccine rollout, hope has now returned. And so have the hugs.

“Before the vaccine. I spent a lot of time away from [my grandchildren] because I was afraid that I would give the virus to them.”

From increasing access to the skills needed to thrive in a digital economy to supporting the most vulnerable in times of crisis, Cisco, a Global Citizen partner, is committed to using its technology to power an inclusive future.

Read the full article about technology in rural hospitals by Sam Venis at Global Citizen.