Honsberg says the UNLV ICU physician team consists of about 10 practitioners -- attending physicians along with doctors in specialty training as fellows and residents. They work with nurses and respiratory therapists to care for patients with the novel coronavirus. She says “when patients are this ill” one nurse is assigned to one patient in the ICU. Respiratory therapists are frequently adjusting the ventilators and giving breathing treatments.
“It’s an amazing team,” she says, noting that an ICU pharmacist joins the team for morning rounds when a treatment strategy for each patient is discussed. “I couldn’t ask for more. You have to communicate well and we do.”
Because of the virulence of the virus, Honsberg says loved ones of patients cannot visit them.
“We communicate with the family on the phone,” she says. “It can become very emotional. We try our best to describe what’s happening with the patient.”
Patients on ventilators -- all of whom are on general anesthesia -- alternate twice a day between lying on their backs and stomachs. Honsberg says seven to eight medical professionals are needed to turn the patient over. The practice helps open up lungs that may have been compressed in one position, Honsberg says.
“It is very labor intensive -- you have to be very careful, “ she says. “You can’t dislodge support equipment, all their tubes that include tracheal tubes.”
A native of Delaware, Honsberg earned her MD from the Sidney Kimmel College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She completed her training in pulmonary medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences and did a subsequent fellowship in critical care medicine at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. She joined UNLV in 2016.
Honsberg, whose husband is also a physician, describes herself as a “little germaphobe.”
“I leave my shoes and outer clothes in the garage when I get home from work,” she says. “I always wash my hands before coming in the house.”
The mother of two sons who are now at home doing their college work online, Honsberg says the coronavirus outbreak has caused her to stop her parents from visiting.
“It’s hard on me and harder on them,” she says.”I told them they can’t visit for safety reasons until this epidemic has gone away.”
Throughout her years as a physician, Honsberg says she has trained for a pandemic.
“It’s something you train for,” she says, “ but something you never want to see.”
Though this is a particularly stressful time, where long hours can be the norm, Honsberg says she’s glad she’s a physician.
“You spend so much of your time training, continuously learning. It is gratifying to use all of my experience to try and help patients.”