Ohio National Guard joins frontline staff at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center


Sgt. Kinnis White (pictured above) of Centerburg, Ohio, joined the Army National Guard as a way to serve her community.

Now she’s doing just that in central Ohio at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, where she’s using her Army medic training to help relieve hospital employees who are grappling with the rising number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Sgt. White is one of more than 2,000 members of the Ohio National Guard deployed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to alleviate frontline workers during a new surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. She’s also one of 10 guardsmen at the medical center who earned EMT certification while in the Guard. That training qualifies them to work in the hospital’s Emergency Department.

Dozens of other guardsmen have been sent to assist in non-clinical roles, including environmental services, nutrition services and patient transportation. And more are expected in the coming weeks.

“The staff have been amazing,” says Sgt. White, who has temporarily traded in her Army fatigues for scrubs to conduct emergency medical technician duties including checking bloodwork and taking vital signs. “It’s been great to give back.”

Guard members helped out in all kinds of ways.

Specialist Macy Quinn was spotted singing a lullaby to a 6-month-old baby while the baby was being swabbed during a COVID test.

“It was amazing,” says the infant’s mother, Jennica Johns, MD, who specializes in internal medicine at Ohio State. “It probably was not what she wanted to be doing that day, but she went above and beyond.”

The personal touch was critical to patients, as Ohio set a one-day record for COVID-19 hospitalizations of more than 5,300 in early January. That’s a big number that tested the stamina of already overworked personnel.

“We recognize the stress that you’ve been under,” Major Gen. John C. Harris said during a visit to the medical center on New Year’s Eve. “I’ve seen firsthand and talked to members of the staff here who’ve been in this fight for 22, 23 months. We appreciate what you’ve done, not just for central Ohio, but for the state and our loved ones.”

Gen. Harris said he was struck by similarities he saw between military and hospital workers. Both depend on cohesive teams that trust each other and build on each other’s qualifications and character.


NationalGuard-2img4Left image above: Ohio Army National Guard specialist Alexis Smith of Milford Center, Ohio, helps with nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Right image above: Nicole Teffenhardt, a student nursing assistant, trains Army National Guardsman Raphael Andoh on how to be a “patient sitter” at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Humbled and grateful for the help

“Our goal in the National Guard is to be a part of that team. We’re here to help.”

Julie Meddles, director of Nutrition Services, knows the importance of teamwork needed to produce 3,000 patient meals a day. She guided Gen. Harris on a portion of his tour and subsequently trained guard members for work in nutrition services, focusing on patient care needs. Guardsmen will help serve meals, assemble patient trays and prep food.

“I’ll never forget the pictures that day, or the sight now, of the guardsmen delivering meals to our patients and working in our kitchens. I’m humbled, honored and grateful that the Ohio National Guard dropped what they’re doing to come help us. It’s truly lifted the spirits of our staff so much to have their help,” Meddles says.

Sous chef Cody Harden finds the help “indispensable.” He’s getting assistance with preparing meals, which today includes a baked fish sandwich and French onion soup. “It’s helped us breathe a little bit.”


FullWidthCAS-TestingImage above: “Combat training is similar to an ER because it’s a fast-paced environment,” says Donny Bradburn, an Ohio Army National Guard specialist and trained medic who’s currently assisting in the Emergency Department at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Keeping the priority on patients

Other indispensable aid comes in the form of patient care.

“From a nursing standpoint, it’s a huge help,” says Jessica Mahle, nurse manager of the Neuro step-down unit. “Now we’re able to have PCAs who’ve been sitting with individual patients in rooms be out on the floor for all patients.”

Army National Guardsman Raphael Andoh, of Ghana, recently started a 12-hour shift at the Brain and Spine Hospital. “I’m having a great time so far,” he says.

His contribution is allowing Nicole Teffenhardt, a student nursing assistant, to work with more patients.

“It’ll free us up to take vitals and blood draws while he’s able to watch for patient safety-related things,” Teffenhardt says.


NationalGuard-2img3Left image above: Staff Sgt. Justin Martin is helping to process COVID-19 tests and swab patients at the COVID-19 testing site at CAS.
Right image above: Twenty guardsmen have joined Ohio State health care providers at a new COVID-19 testing site at CAS. The three-lane, drive-thru station can swab more than 1,000 patients a day.

COVID-19 testing site

Meanwhile, 20 other guardsmen have joined Ohio State health care providers at a new COVID-19 testing site at CAS. The three-lane, drive-thru station can swab more than 1,000 patients a day.

“We were able to train all guardsmen on the swabbing technique because that doesn’t require them to do any computer work or have access to our medical records,” says Christine Harsh, director of Ambulatory Services.

Staff Sgt. Justin Martin is helping to process rapid COVID-19 tests and swab people, from infants to 90-year-olds. He says he never thought he’d be in a hospital setting during a pandemic as part of his guard services.

“It’s not something I would go out and do for fun, but it’s something that needs to be done,” he says. “I’m happy to be here.”


Maj. Gen. John Harris on Ohio National Guard deployment

Maj. Gen. John C. Harris, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, shares this message with the community about how the National Guard is helping reduce the strain for hospital staff at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and how every Ohioan can do their part to help keep everyone as safe as possible and control the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as possible.