Laura Moore, Registered Nurse
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Starship Children’s Health, Auckland, New Zealand
COVID19 has meant a complete shift in how I work. As a neonatal nurse usually at the bedside (or incubator side!) I’ve found myself wandering through adult and paediatric wards, answering calls from nurses, doctors, cleaners, security and administration staff. From tiny babies one week, to helping security men double my size safely don and doff their PPE the next, it has truly been a lesson in flexibility.
Our neonatal unit created a “COVID Team”, swiftly followed by a To-Do list that seemed to grow each day. One of our first priorities was screening parents. We took a multi-layered approach, screening at least 3 times from outside the unit to the bedside. In addition we created a station at the entrance which gave parents the opportunity to clean their phones and wash their hands, and set up a register for parents to facilitate potential future contact tracing.
We designed guidelines for admissions and deliveries with associated care plans, and edited them, and edited them, and edited them again with each new piece of Ministry of Health guidance. We cleared out rooms for isolation, printed educational posters and laminated everything. We put out weekly FAQs, to provide constant and consistent feedback to staff and to ensure concerns were responded to promptly.
In conjunction with the New Zealand government’s alert levels, the neonatal unit altered to reflect the same. Visitation was reduced to exclusively parents with only one parent at the bedside per visit. We reduced the number of people who could be in shared spaces such as the mother’s room, work room and staff tearoom at any given time to facilitate social distancing. We increased our use of teleconferencing apps which facilitated reducing the number of staff on ward rounds, meetings and education sessions. We took every opportunity we could think of to try to reduce contact and therefore reduce risk.
This was a collective “we”; however I found myself inadvertently becoming a person staff felt comfortable raising their concerns and anxieties to as COVID evolved, both in formal and informal conversations. My nursing colleagues began to contact me increasingly over social media, sharing concerns and questions that they perhaps did not want to raise directly at work. I was moved that people felt comfortable to give their honest feedback and ask me their questions, even if I didn’t have all the answers myself!
The world suddenly feels uncertain; healthcare workers are only human and have a life and worries both inside and outside the hospital walls. Managing staff anxieties, ensuring their concerns were heard, and hopefully helping them feel protected and valued has been, in my opinion, the greatest achievement of our “COVID Team”.
Working as part of the team of the greater hospital has underscored how this is new territory for us all and we need to venture into it together with kindness, compassion and a degree of flexibility. I feel hopeful that by retaining our humanity through a collective effort and empathy with one another and our colleagues across the globe we can protect our tiny precious patients, their families and each other.