As quickly as their community-based work was paused, staff from Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) and Adolescent Intensive Services (AIS) put their hands up to change work locations, change roles and change the balance of their personal lives to assemble as the IWK’s door screeners.
A critical component of the IWK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to secure the access points to the hospital and screen or ID all patients, their support people and staff for symptoms and verify their need to be in the building. This is one of the key tools being used to keep our building, and the people inside of it, safe. Screening work has been carried out by staff from several areas but primarily people from EIBI and AIS which has required a complete departure from their typical work.
Door screening began March 19, 2020 with 28 staff taking shifts seven days a week to manage the four available access points to the IWK: Women’s Building on University Avenue, Children’s Building on South Street, Emergency Department and the shipping/receiving bay. At some entrances, this can mean screening or ID checking for up to 1,500 patients, support people and staff in a single day. It’s a busy job, and one that carries great importance.
“The Emergency Department staff have gone through many operational changes since the pandemic started, but there has been one change that has been very positive for the team, the door screeners,” shares Tanya Sheppard, manager, Emergency Department. “Early on Emergency Department staff developed a good working relationship with the team screening at the doors. Our team feels supported that the firstline of screening is complete before patients and families enter the department. This level of support is greatly appreciated by our team and helps us feel protected.”
“They have a spirit of service which I think is one of the wonderful things about the IWK,” says Mike Sangster, professional practice leader for Physiotherapy and co-lead of the door screening team. “The people from EIBI and AIS have had their lives so disrupted and yet they have stepped in without complaint.”
“Everyone on the doors is really trying to provide assistance to the patients and families coming in. Some decisions are mapped out and some need to be made on the fly and I see amazing flexibility and adaptability across the board,” adds Heather Osborne-Vincent, manager, Rehabilitation Services and fellow co-lead of the door screening team. “Everyone in the organization is working hard every day.”
Three EIBI program implementers, Mike Cavallaro, Emily Pynch and Sarah Leddin are all currently working as door screening shift leaders. As Cavallaro testifies, it’s taken a lot of work and creativity to get the process to where it is today.
Left: Mike Cavallaro. Right: Emily Pynch. Sarah Leddin not pictured.
“I heard the words door screening, and I knew where to go but we didn’t know on that first day what this was going to look like. Over the first few weeks it was really figuring it out as we went along asking ourselves ‘how do we make this better’, ‘how can we do a better job of keeping the patients coming through the door happy,’” says Cavallaro. “Now it’s so streamlined and we’ve seen some of the processes we designed and put forward working really smoothly and it’s a really nice feeling.”
Sangster adds “As leaders, we relied on the expertise of the screening staff to make this the sound process it is today. It has grown to the great process it is because of the EIBI and AIS staff. If we had rigid thinkers in this role, it would have failed a long time ago.”
Having EIBI and AIS staff at the University Avenue site was new for everyone given their usual location at community sites. Although they are the people at the firstline, the door screening staff credit collaboration as a key ingredient in a lot of their success.
“I was initially quite anxious about doing door screening. I didn’t know what I was walking into and I was apprehensive,” says Leddin. “But after my first day, my anxieties dissolved. We were well supported and I’ve enjoyed teaming with various staff that I’d never interacted with and otherwise would never have met. I feel like we will go back to our previous positions as a much closer team.”
“The units have all been really open to working with us whether it’s me running up to the sixth floor to have a two-minute chat about a specific patient who is down in entrance, or working in the background to change the way they’re calling patients,” adds Cavallaro. “That’s been a nice thing for us.”
“Protection Services have also been fantastic and have backed us up on a number of things and they bring a lot of comfort in tough situations,” shares Pynch. “Being able to collaborate with the units has also been very beneficial. Units are reaching out to us throughout the day if there are changes to their patient lists and they know who to contact throughout the day which has been huge for us.”
“What we’re seeing here is that we are one IWK family regardless of the locations in which we work or the jobs we do,” says Sangster. “Everyone has pulled together here to do the very best for our patients and families.”