Inside the IWK Pediatric Intensive Care Unit during COVID-19 Pandemic

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Photos by Ryan Wilson

The IWK’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is highly specialized; they are tasked with caring for the Maritime’s sickest children. This close-knit group of health care professionals is used to dealing with high stress and often develop close relationships with the families they care for. We wanted to hear what it was like on the unit during the pandemic so we reached out to Denise MacIntyre, clinical leader of operations. Here’s what she had to share.

Denise MacIntyre

How has the PICU team had to adapt or change to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic? “Lots of changes.  A lot of preparing for all the what-ifs.  Learning the screening protocols and admission protocols for various patients and families.”

What has been the most challenging aspect about providing care during COVID-19?
“Personally it has been the limitation of support person to one.  This is truly heartbreaking for families to have to decide who the one person is who will stay with their child.  Especially true during the time when the change came into effect.  Family members who had been at the bedside of their loved one were told they had to leave and not come back.”

DSC0051What has been the most rewarding or inspiring aspect? What keeps you going?“How well families have adapted to this new normal.  So understanding about the need to limit family members present to one.  Also teamwork and staff’s ability to adapt to all the changes.”

Is there an example that sticks in your mind and reinforces how different things are in PICU as a result of the pandemic?
“Just overall everyone wearing facemasks all day.  It is really an odd feeling to look around and see all your coworkers with a mask on.”

Have you seen any encouraging innovations or long term benefits as result of this added planning for COVID-19?
“Team work definitely, everyone working together to try and understand the new guidelines that need to be followed. The pandemic is also an unfriendly reminder of how important proper isolation, PPE use and hand washing is. I believe these themes will continue long after the pandemic is gone.”

What will you remember most about this time? 
“Trying so hard to maintain physical distance.  We are a group that spends a lot of time together and it is really not a natural inclination to maintain the required physical space in between people.”DSC0040