Rapid Response and Transforming Together
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Posted by: Shanna Howard
By Luci Bostain MSN, RN-BC
I believe we should rename 2020 the year of the medical professional instead of the year of the nurse. As medical provider, we prepare for all kinds of out of the ordinary events, but COVID has not been like any event ever to have happened before. All kidding aside, who was ready for COVID-19?
As I look back on the events that started sometime around mid-March and continue today, I am extremely proud of the way COVID-19 has been and still is being managed at the organization I work for: Baylor Scott and White Health in the College Station Region. The College Station Region includes two acute care hospitals and many clinics. The College Station hospital with 142 beds is the main facility, and the Brenham hospital with 60 beds is the smaller facility.
When COVID-19 first became an issue in Texas in mid-March, Brenham was hit hard because of one of our local nursing facilities having so many cases. Our region came together quickly with a plan to continue to provide safe care for our patients, preserve pay for our employees and handle an influx of COVID-19 patients, which was nothing short of amazing.
In the clinics, a virtual care model was developed, as well as online screening for testing that allowed patients to fill out a screening questionnaire and be evaluated by a provider for the need for testing. If testing was needed, a designated area outside of the clinics and the hospitals was developed to avoid contact with other patients. If care was needed in the clinics or the hospitals, screenings stations were put into place to route patients to appropriate care and prevent exposure.
Touchless payment and check-in processes were developed in every facility. Extra cleaning processes started, and every employee wears a mask no matter what department they are working in order to give our patients access to safe care in our facilities. To prepare for an influx of hospitalized patients, the fastest construction I had ever seen happen took place almost immediately in order to convert entire sections of both hospitals into ones capable of becoming an enclosed negative pressure area for COVID patients. A second area in the Brenham facility was created in order to stabilize and transfer sicker COVID patients requiring intubation and a higher level of care. What we did with our staff was even more impressive. Like every other acute care facility, our two hospitals temporarily stopped all elective procedures, but our staff was not furloughed.
As a region, a staffing plan was developed to meet the needs of each acute care facility utilizing staff from the entire region. Operating room, obstetrics and clinic nurses were paired with experienced acute care nurses and trained in caring for hospitalized patients. Ancillary personnel such as clinic medical assistants and surgical techs were trained to function as techs on the unit to assist with high volumes.
The region developed a team of leaders from the entire region to assess each employee’s strengths and assign them according to their particular skills set and needs. For example: Pregnant, breast feeding, or immune-compromised employees were placed in the non-COVID care area and a few OR nurses with recent med-surg charge nurse experience became regular charge nurses so that the charge nurses could become dedicated COVID nurses. A few OR nurses from College Station that had recent med/surg experience became valuable night shift nurses on our COVID unit in Brenham.
As this pandemic continues to evolve, our region goes through cycles of peaks in hospitalized cases at each facility. Utilizing staff as a region to meet the needs of our patients truly exhibits our value of “We are in it together” in action. This strategy enabled us to work together as a team of health care providers to provide safe care to our patients and utilize our staff where needed.
As COVID care continues to evolve, we continue to utilize strategies such as extra cleaning of patient areas, separation of COVID patients, virtual visits and screening, touchless technology and all employees wearing masks to ensure that safe care is accessible to our patients. As an organization, we really are in this together and ready to continue to provide excellent and safe care to our patients.