Janet Stifter, PhD, RN, CPHQ
Janet Stifter
Janet Stifter

On Sunday, February 28, 2020 Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) called up their Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) and initiated preparations to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key members from the Division of Nursing, including our Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Angelique Richard, were part of the HICS and led efforts to address patient, family, visitor, staff and provider needs during this crisis.

One of the initial actions was developing a plan to protect our staff and contain the spread of this unknown virus. Three processes were put into effect immediately:

  • a roving team for competency validation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donning and doffing
  • an audit process to ensure that staff and visitors were practicing good handwashing and PPE use
  • a COVID-19 Mobilizer team comprised of clinical and operational administrative leaders to provide 24/7 support to the frontline teams from the ED to the inpatient units

The period of our initial COVID-19 surge from March through May 2020 saw us managing the sickest patients in the city of Chicago, requiring the highest intensity of care from the ICUs to the Medical Surgical units.

Registered Nurses (RNs) at the medical center were leaders in many ways, including:

  • convening telehealth ambulatory visits
  • using prone positioning of our ventilated patients in the intensive care units (ICUs)
  • managing intravenous (IV) pumps in the hallways outside of ICU isolation rooms
  • rounding with our wellness team and supporting both grieving families and staff resilience efforts
  • using iPads to create virtual communication opportunities with families during this time of visitor restriction.

Nurses transcended their roles, with Medical Surgical nurses forming dyad partnerships with ICU nurses to care for the COVID-19 patients who were intubated and on ECMO.

Pediatric nurses stepped up as respiratory extenders to support the RT team, caring for patients throughout the hospital with trachs and/or on respiratory treatments.

These innovative approaches to care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic were our efforts to ensure an ongoing commitment to provide high quality, safe nursing care even as our quality indicator performance was challenged daily by this unknown entity.

We are gratified to share just a sampling of the stories that relate the nursing experience with COVID-19. These stories demonstrate why Rush nurses epitomize the Magnet standards.