A unit within a unit – pandemic response at the IWK

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photos by Ryan Wilson

In preparation to respond to the impacts of COVID-19, behind-the-scenes efforts have been underway for weeks, and in some areas, months, across the IWK. One of the bigger undertakings that involved not only strategy and people but physical space too, was opening a care unit specific to COVID-19 patients.

The Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) opened in March 2020 and serves as the inpatient unit for any IWK patient with a pending or confirmed positive COVID-19 rest result.

“Setting up this unit has been a great learning experience. It’s given us an opportunity to see first-hand how the IWK community pulls together to put the necessary supports in place to provide the best care for patients and families,” says McDonald.

_DSC0021The unit is staffed by a newly formed team consisting of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, allied health team members, ward clerks, unit aides and a variety of support services – all who have come from departments across the IWK to work together.

“It’s inspiring to experience everyone’s willingness to come together and make things happen,” says McDonald. “I feel they are truly the spirit of the IWK, supporting patients and families, and each other during these unprecedented times.”

Throughout this challenging time of unknowns and new experiences, this new team has demonstrated their commitment to supporting patients and families through resilience and flexibility.

“It’s been incredible to see how the staff working in the clinical area have come together as a team under stressful times and shown such resilience. They’ve adapted to the constant changing work environment and they’re consistently bringing forward their creative ideas,” says Gallant. “Everyone is facing their own stressful situations at home, but they’re able to come into work in the PRU with a willingness to learn, adapt and teach others, all in an effort to make the it a safe environment for patients, families and staff.”

Assembling this team has demonstrated the benefits of collaborative efforts in health care.

“The development of the PRU was the ultimate display of collaboration from multiple teams and staff from across the IWK. In less than a week the team had the foundations of the unit planned and we continue to build on that daily, keeping patient and staff safety at the forefront,” says unit manager, Laura Betts. “It’s an amazing team and by supporting each other they have accomplished many great things.”

Echoing that, Gallants says “The work that has gone on in such a short period of time is impressive and the support people behind the scenes, along with the clinical team, have worked incredibly hard to build a unit to serve the patients and families of the Maritimes. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside so many wonderful people and I am excited to be a part of the PRU.”