Ramika Jones, a family nurse practitioner at Guthrie Primary Care, knew her patients were especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Many of the people she sees are elderly and have preexisting conditions.

Jones became a true superhero for her patients, making sure they received the care they deserved and stepping in to fill other roles at the practice as needed.

She continues to go above and beyond, and is even pursuing additional credentials so she can provide care for mental health issues as well as physical health.

Many of the patients family nurse practitioner Ramika Jones sees at Regional One Health’s Guthrie Primary Care are elderly, live with chronic health conditions, and face barriers to receiving care. They’re precisely the population hit hardest by COVID-19, and that has made the past six months a stressful, worrisome time.

It could be the recipe for crisis, but instead, these patients found a champion in Jones, MSN, FNP-C. She has put in countless hours to ensure her patients received care, even as the pandemic created staffing shortages and other challenges.

Brenda Buckley, Guthrie Primary Care practice manager, has been with Regional One Health for 37 years – and Jones’ efforts are among the most impressive she has witnessed: “I want people to know how important it is to this community, which is an underserved community, that she’s here for them. I’m so proud of her and so appreciative of her,” Buckley said.

For Jones, the desire to help others stems from her natural empathy. “A lot of my patients don’t receive the love and concern they should, so that’s what I try to provide,” she said. “I come from a community just like this…the forgotten ones. I grew up wanting to be a health care provider. I grew up wanting to take care of people.”

Family nurse practitioner Ramika Jones grew up wanting to be a health care provider, and she loves working with patients at Guthrie Primary Care. “A lot of my patients don’t receive the love and concern they should, so that’s what I try to provide,” she said.

In four years at Guthrie Primary Care, she’s done just that – building bonds with patients so she can not only treat their medical problems but educate them to take better care of themselves.

“I have seen her grow as a provider in her connectivity to the community and patients,” Buckley said. “The way she manages their care and the decisions she makes are totally patient-focused. We know even when she’s at her most tired, we can count on her to be there for her patients.”

When COVID-19 hit, that became more essential than ever.

Guthrie Primary Care is a small practice, so employees are used to stepping in and doing what is needed. During the pandemic, Jones was called on not only to care for patients, but much more – scheduling, triage, intake, drawing labs, answering patient questions by phone, you name it.

“We had patients coming in for their regular care, and at the same time we were flooded with patients on the phone with questions about their symptoms,” Buckley said. “She became the total package for us and made sure our patients were getting the care they need.”

Jones realized how difficult COVID-19 was for her patients, and her heart went out to them.

“Some patients were afraid to come in because they were worried about the virus,” she said. “We called them and reassured them it is safe and that we have practices in place to keep them safe.”

She started offering telehealth, patiently walking each patient through the process; and helped patients obtain prescriptions with fewer visits to the pharmacy.

As Jones found ways to see patients, she noticed another concern: increasing levels of depression and anxiety as the pandemic sparked fear and robbed people of their usual social support system.

Brenda Buckley, practice manager at Guthrie Primary Care, said Jones has been a superhero for her patients during the pandemic.“I want people to know how important it is to this community, which is an underserved community, that she’s here for them,” she said.

Once again, she is going above and beyond to help. Along with educating patients about COVID-19, Jones is enrolled in a post-certificate program in psychiatric nursing so she can treat both physical and mental needs. Since her patients are already comfortable with her, she hopes her new credential will remove barriers to receiving mental health care.

As Buckley noted, “For underserved patients, it can be especially hard to access care for their emotional needs. To have someone onsite who is certified to help them with those needs when they’re already here can be a tremendous service to them.”

It also highlights just how vital primary care is, especially during a pandemic. “In many cases, we’re the first stop,” Buckley said.

And that, in turn, highlights how crucial it is to have dedicated providers like Ramika Jones.

As Buckley noted, if Jones hadn’t been so accessible to her patients, they might have let serious conditions go unchecked, leading to dire consequences. “We are all tasked to do our best each day in our work environment. Some of us are marginal, some above average, and some exceptional,” she said. “Ramika’s performance these past several months bordered on the stuff of superheroes. That is the product of genuine dedication and caring.”

Now, with patient volume picking up as more people feel comfortable receiving care, Jones isn’t about to take a break. Instead, she’s invigorated by lessons learned during the pandemic, like the importance of health education and promoting preventative care.

“I just want to help people become the best they can be and reach their fullest potential – that’s what drives me,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I never want to leave. I love my patients, I love coming to work, I love the work. It’s not something I have to think about or turn on or off – it’s just what comes naturally to me.”

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