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  • Oct 26, 2020

Learn about the Perioperative Department at CHA and its Response to COVID-19

Pictured is Nancy McCune (left) and Patty Poirier.

CHA nurse educators Nancy McCune and Patty Poirier have worked together off and on for almost 3 decades at CHA Everett Hospital, from 1989 to 2014, and now are together again in the Perioperative Department. Nurse educators at CHA combine their clinical and academic experience to empower nurses to thrive in the profession through hands-on training and professional development. Nancy is the Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) nurse educator and Patty is the Operating room and Endoscopy Educator nurse educator. “We learn something new from one another every day and complement each other,” said Nancy.

Nancy joined Whidden/Everett Hospital ICU in 1989 after attending the Somerville School of Nursing. She spent 25 years in ICU and PACU before leaving CHA in 2014 and she managed Perioperative Services at Anna Jaques Hospital before coming back to CHA in 2016. Patty has been at CHA since 1983 and was previously in the intensive care unit (ICU) and OR.  Patty was a diploma grad from St Elizabeth’s Hospital and received her BSN from  Northeastern University in 2011.  Both Patty and Nancy are certified in their respective nursing specialties.

Response to COVID-19
“Guidance from the state and the federal government was shifting rapidly in early March and our nurses made adjustments hourly to care for our patients on some days,” said Nancy. As COVID-19 positive cases began to rise in Massachusetts, CHA shifted services quickly to create a safe environment to deliver care and save lives. New ICU beds came online in the PACUs at Cambridge and Everett Hospitals in a matter of days. “Perioperative nurse manager Robin Grace was instrumental in this transition of services and we really could not have done it without her and other leaders in the Department,” commented Patty. 

Spaces were created for donning and doffing in the PACUs and new equipment was brought in to shift the facilities into ICUs. Overall, CHA’s ICU capacity went from an average of 8-10 beds to as many as 28 during the height of the surge. “I remember looking around one day and seeing all of our nurses who were redeployed to the ICU and other critical areas hard at work and being so proud of them,” said Patty. Once the surge subsided, these services were transitioned back to their normal capacity. 

Perioperative technicians became PPE champions and rounded on the hospital floors to demonstrate the proper way to don and doff PPE. Nancy also focused on fit testing of N95 masks for staff to ensure tight seals on the mask, a critical component of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital setting. 

Staff in the Perioperative Department, Surgery, Respiratory Therapy, and Critical Care, came together to find a way to safely perform tracheostomies and feeding tube insertions at the bedside during the pandemic. In this procedure, a surgeon makes a hole in the front of the neck into the windpipe (trachea). A tube is placed into the hole to keep it open to help the person breathe. Usually, patients are transferred to the OR to perform this procedure but the team discovered a way to perform it in the ICU. 

Using a negatively pressurized room and a different technique, allowed the team to safely do these procedures at the bedside, which helped improve patient and staff safety. This different approach helped prevent the spread of the virus and helped patients recover faster. Patty was valuable in the planning and implementation of these procedures to keep everyone safe. 

It was the first time many of the staff had performed this procedure and people from across disciplines came together to make it a success. The patient was weaned off of a ventilator and transitioned into rehab and is doing well today. 

It’s Safe to Get Care at CHA
“We did a lot of debriefing after the surge and developed best practices which we can put in place if there is another increase in COVID-19 in our area,” said Nancy. “We took a lot from the experience.” According to Nancy, staff were able to break down silos and today people who once worked in the ICU have transitioned to the PACU and vice versa. Relationships that were forged amidst the surge have remained and new partnerships have developed across departments. 

Today, before patients arrive for a procedure at CHA, individuals are tested for COVID-19 and anyone entering a CHA facility is screened for fever and asked questions about their travel history. “As soon as you come into the hospital, patients will notice that staff are wearing the correct PPE,” said Nancy. “We take everyone’s safety very seriously.” Patty herself is getting a procedure at CHA this year in the midst of COVID-19. “I’m having surgery at CHA and trust the providers and nurses here to take care of me, too,” said Patty. “Every day, we take care of everyone who comes through our doors as if they were our own family.”

Many appointments at CHA are now by video or phone (telehealth). This includes video visits using Google Meet. CHA is the first health system in the country to connect Google Meet with MyChart - making it easy to have a video visit (even three-way visits with an interpreter) while keeping information safe. If you have a new or ongoing health concern, don't wait. Just call or send CHA a MyChart message. We can help decide if a video, phone or in-person visit is right for you. We continue to gradually reopen for face-to-face visits, starting with the most pressing needs. If you are coming in person, please know we are working hard to keep you safe.

This articles provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.

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