Nurses sidelined by the coronavirus are finding a new mission staffing the drive-in testing facilities that are rapidly opening all over the country.
When governments ordered non-essential businesses to close to help limit the spread of COVID-19, doctors’ offices, ambulatory surgical centers and clinics were among them. Elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery, knee and hip replacements and cataract removal were cancelled.
Many of these RNs were redeployed providing in-patient care. Others went to work opening and managing testing centers.
A Nurse.com article describes what it’s like to make the transition from hands-on patient care to hands-off testing.
“I think that feels weird to people,” says Kadie Randel, at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Idaho. Nursing manager at the hospital’s Primary Care Pediatrics, she now is lead RN at one of the health system’s testing centers in the state.
Halfway across the country, Melissa Bacon, nurse manager of the Cleveland Clinic’s Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center, now runs the Clinic’s drive-thru testing site in Cleveland, overseeing some 40 staff.
“As many healthcare systems, we had to adapt to this new world of COVID-19, so many of the employees have been deployed to other places to support the needs of our COVID-19 patients,” she told Nurse.com.
Medical assistants comprise most of the test site team, Bacon said. Other hospital professionals from nursing education, infection prevention and quality support the drive-thru testers teaching “about proper donning and doffing of PPE, what PPE is needed for each testing site patient care role, as well as proper swabbing technique.”
The same is true at the Boise, Idaho site, said Randel. “People have been very willing to step up and learn and to take on this challenging situation.”
Working at a drive-in test site is very different. Besides being covered with masks, face shields, gowns and gloves for most of the day, being outside presents its own unique challenges, she said.
“We’re in the Rocky Mountains. It can be gorgeous and 75 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next,” she explained, adding the facility had to close one day because of high winds. “And of course we’ll close for lightening, but otherwise we’re staying open.”