North Bay hospitals gear up for a possible wave of coronavirus infections
E ven though the number of hospitalizations from the new coronavirus has started to stabilize in the North Bay area, hospitals are in “surge preparation” mode in the face of an unpredictable global pandemic.
The prep work involves ensuring enough beds, equipment, ventilators, adequate personal protective equipment, and even information technology infrastructure for additional sites within a hospital that can be converted to an intensive care unit.
Hospitals in the North Bay area are also among those fortifying their teams by cross-training nurses who normally work in units outside of critical care, teaching them to become proficient in supporting ICU nurses on the front lines treating patients with COVID-19.
Eager to help
So far, 71 nurses employed at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital have been cross-trained to work in a critical care environment, according to hospital spokeswoman Ashley Boarman. Of the 71 registered nurses, 47 are now trained to work on the medical-surgical floors; 14 for the emergency department, and 10 for the ICU.
One of those nurses is Pamela Reed, director of nursing/clinical director at Sutter Health’s Santa Rosa Surgery and Endoscopy Center, located directly across the street from the hospital.
“I became interested in wanting to help as I started hearing about COVID,” said Reed, who, before moving into a hospital leadership role, worked in clinical care for many years, including 10 years as a critical care nurse. “I have a daughter who lives in Brooklyn, and I was hearing about the surge that was happening there and the shortage of nursing staff. I was really motivated to help in more of a direct way.”
Reed traveled to Sutter Health’s Sacramento headquarters to attend a 3-day program at Sutter Health University, the educational component of the health care system for clinical staff.
Reed said the course was valuable, not only to refresh her critical-care nursing expertise, but also because a large part of the education was tailored specifically to patients who require respiratory support, including the need for possible intubation and ventilator management.
“Many of these patients have cardiovascular or multisystem organ failure as their disease progresses and they’re critically ill with COVID,” Reed said, “so (the education also) focused on those treatment protocols that you would need to support a COVID patient.”
Reed also noted the importance of the cross-training in another scenario.
“In outpatient surgery, we do elective cases on healthy patients, so in a surge pandemic, our center would be repurposed as an extension of the hospital, and we would need to learn new skills to be able to care for patients that were hospitalized,” she said. “(Sutter) realizes that they have this tremendous resource in their staff in that most of us have done hospital work previous to our (current) career, but we may just need a refresher course.”
Ready to jump in
As an operating room nurse at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, Joey Benton takes care of patients for a short period of time, getting them safely through surgery. Now she is trained to assist ICU nurses who need to stay with COVID-19 patients in isolation.
There are a number of ways Benton could help, such as retrieving pain medication for an ICU nurse to give to a COVID-19 patient in isolation, or caring for the nurse’s other patients who aren’t as acutely ill.