Observation Unit Transformed into COVID-19 Care Unit
Highland’s Observation Unit, led by Keely Dwyer-Matzky M.D., M.S., medical director and Eric North, CCRN, nurse manager, has been transformed into a unit that exclusively cares for COVID-19 patients and those under investigation for the disease.
North says converting the unit has been successful because of the positive attitude and flexibility of staff. “Our nursing staff stepped up right away when we were asked to dedicate the unit to COVID care,” he said. “They are doing a phenomenal job!”
The unit has been dedicated to COVID since mid-March. “In the beginning, staff members had concerns but once they saw how well the process works and how effective our safety protocols are, they were reassured and embraced our role,” said North.
Float staff has also been added. Generally the 26 private bed unit runs with five-to-six patients per nurse. Now there are three-to-four patients per nurse. About 100 shifts per week are filled by nurses not originally from the unit.
“Hospitalists, APPs, OU nursing leaders, nurses, techs, physical therapists, secretaries, social workers, care coordinators, float staff and all involved have done an amazing job delivering the best compassionate care during this difficult time,” said Dr. Dwyer-Matzky.
Patients are swabbed in the ED and immediately sent to the Observation Unit. If they are not COVID-19 positive they are transferred to an appropriate place in the hospital. Those who are positive are cared for in the unit until they can go home. Patients who need ventilators are transferred to ICU.
“Processes for the diagnosis and care of COVID-19 can change so rapidly,” said North. “But communication from leadership has been great and we pass the information on to staff as fast as possible. It’s been a tremendous amount of change, but they are taking it in stride.”
“Staff are working on creative ways including movement and green therapy to care for this vulnerable population who can remain on isolation for up to a month while staying safe,” said Dr. Dwyer-Matzky.
"We are also utilizing technology to improve communication with loved ones,” said North. “The unit has received three iPads, which patients can use to Facetime or Zoom with family members. Also, since the weather is improving, we are making accommodations to allow appropriate patients to be safely transported outside for fresh air and some sunlight.”