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Adaptability, teamwork key to navigating COVID-19 fight

Photo of Sumeet Sidhu and Sabrina Klassen
From left to right – Licensed Practical Nurse Sumeet Sidhu and RNBN Sabrina Klassen.

By Mike Daly
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, May 10, 2021

Licensed Practical Nurse Sumeet Sidhu and RNBN Sabrina Klassen are well aware of the stresses and fears COVID-19 has thrust upon those working on the health-care system's front lines. They are also clear on one of our most important strengths for coping with them: an ability to pull together as a team for the common good.

"Something I've heard throughout the pandemic is that we're all in this together, and we truly are," Sidhu says. "At the end of the day, we all have the same goal: to make sure our clients are safe."

As members of Deer Lodge Centre's Nursing Resource Team, they have a combined decade of experience and spent much of their time as "float nurses," providing care to clients throughout Deer Lodge Center (DLC), filling gaps in coverage where necessary.

Over the last several months, however, their duties completely changed to focus on helping staff keep pace with rapidly-changing protocols for personal protection equipment (PPE) and asymptomatic surveillance testing.

"Things were changing so rapidly with respect to protocols for donning, doffing and storing PPE that it was difficult for staff to keep up with what was current," Sidhu explains. "Change was occurring week to week or even day to day. In a facility as large as DLC, it was a significant learning challenge, and the team worked to the best of our ability to accommodate staff education on the units in a way that wasn't disruptive to their shifts."

Keeping staff up to date meant staying in close communication with other team members such as Infection, Prevention & Control, their Clinical Educator and their manager, who was leading the PPE education project. The duo also needed to stay current with daily updates to Shared Health's online resources. 

PPE education was provided in small groups, or even on a one-to-one basis, which allowed a better opportunity for questions and a much more interpersonal learning environment.

"Our timing couldn't have been better," Sidhu says. Just after our colleagues completed their PPE return demonstrations, DLC experienced its first outbreak.  

The duo was also part of a successful Asymptomatic Surveillance Testing (AST) pilot project launched by the Province in December. The project used Abbott Laboratories' Panbio rapid antigen test to detect the COVID-19 virus during its infectious stage in health care workers who had yet to develop symptoms. Results were available in about 15-20 minutes following a voluntary nasopharyngeal swab. More than 700 tests were conducted over a four-week period for staff.

"The AST Clinic was ground breaking research for our province, and another way in which DLC could potentially catch the virus before a person exhibited symptoms," Klassen says. "It helped promote a greater peace of mind for staff which, in turn, gave staff the confidence they needed to focus on performing at their optimal level within their profession. In addition to safe client-to-staff interaction, this test had the potential to be used as a tool that would facilitate safer transfers, admissions and discharges in and out of the facility."

Staff were thrilled to have the clinic as a resource. 

"At the time, Deer Lodge Centre was facing its biggest outbreak and vaccines were not yet available, so having this resource played such an important part in providing staff with assurance," Klassen says, adding that the testing was new to everyone, and required some adjustment on behalf of the clinic team and staff alike.

"For some staff, this was their first nasopharyngeal swab ever, and so we needed to guide them through the process and address any concerns," Klassen says. "One of the biggest adjustments initially was having our colleagues as our clients, which can be a bit intimidating on both sides of the swab. However, it was easy to overcome because we shared the same goals:to increase prevention and decrease exposure." 

Based on its success, the decision was made to extend the clinic beyond its initial pilot phase.

Both Sidhu and Klassen thank an amazingly supportive extended team of individuals who were continually available to answer questions and address functional, environmental and procedural issues. 

"Their input and support helped the Clinic team to function at its best," Klassen says. "We owe them a huge debt of thanks."

Sidhu agrees, adding that the team approach carried everyone through trying and challenging times.

"Even though it’s been such a struggle and there were days of high stress, it’s truly been such a humbling experience," she says. "We've been able to learn so much and just want to say ‘thank you' for all of the collaborative efforts that contributed to making these projects a success."  

Mike Daly is a Communications Specialist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

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