September 11, 2020

Ward 16: Embracing the challenge

From March to July this year Ward 16, a 32 bed surgical/medical ward, cared for both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients ranging from the ages of 20 to 98 years.

Elizabeth Schultz, Associate Nurse Unit Manager (ANUM) for Ward 16 says, “Our ward, prior to COVID-19, was predominantly a surgical ward, caring for colorectal and urology patients. Our surgical nurses quickly needed to learn new skills and familiarise themselves with medical and respiratory nursing.”

“The staff embraced the challenge, took full advantage of the additional resources and education provided to us while preparing for a potential influx of patients.”

Liz says wearing PPE for long hours and caring for people isolated from their loved ones, at a time when they need their loved ones more than ever, was both challenging and rewarding.

She says on top of this, the team had to deal with the stressors involved with isolation, and the added risk that they themselves might contract COVID-19.

“During this time, some of our staff moved out of their homes to protect their families,” says Liz.

Keeping everyone safe during this pandemic has been an important consideration.

“As a team we felt well prepared for what could potentially occur, and doing everything the safest possible way and supporting and looking after the wellbeing of each other,” says Richard Ram, Acting Nurse Unit Manager for Ward 16.

“For me personally, there is something very poignant about the way elderly patients have been particularly affected by COVID-19.”

Liz agrees. “By far the emotionally hardest but most rewarding thing we have done is to help loved ones, via skype, see and say goodbye to their parents, grandparents and friends.”

The caring and compassion in Ward 16 – even behind closed doors and PPE – hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The daughter of one such patient wanted it conveyed that, “Your team were able to turn something that was a distressing experience into something positive.”

She in particular wanted to thank ANUM, Alycia Sharp, for how grateful she was to her for the kind and thoughtful way that she interacted with both her dad and her family.

The daughter went on to say that she felt reassured and calm knowing her dad was respected and cared for during his final hours. The daughter was so touched by the care provided, Alycia got a special mention in the eulogy for her father.

Dr Christian McGrath, General and Infectious Diseases Physician and our COVID-19 lead, had this to say to the staff at Ward 16:

“These are challenging times that I don’t think most of us ever expected to encounter in our lifetimes and you’ve proven to be the best of us by stepping up to the challenge and doing something that most of your peers never have or hopefully never have to do.”

Linda Romano, Divisional Director Nursing, Surgical Services, says the commitment of her team in providing care to our northern community has been remarkable and says, “Thank you all for the exceptional display of dedication and team work.”

“We’ve been given an amazing opportunity to contribute to the northern community and experience nursing in a time like no other. We will forever be changed by this experience,” says Liz.