Outside of our current situation or, perhaps, watching an occasional YouTube documentary, the occurrence of a global pandemic probably isn’t something that most of us regularly think about. But for professionals in the Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) field, a pandemic is what they’re training their whole career for.
“Someone once described a pandemic as being akin to the IPAC Olympics – we’ve always known we would be very likely to see a pandemic in our lifetime, we have laid the foundations for years, and now it’s here,” says IPAC nurse Christine Sherren.
The IWK IPAC team, made up of Registered Nurses, Allana Ivany, Christine Sherren, Bridget Maxwell, Natalie Nymark, and Gail McRae-Sly until May, led by Medical Director, Dr. Jeannette Comeau and Director of Patient Safety, Jane Palmer, began monitoring the COVID-19 situation in early January, when outbreaks were first reported in Wuhan. The team was quickly pulled fully into pandemic response planning and coordinating with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and Public Health to obtain, evaluate, and apply the most up-to-date, and rapidly changing, pandemic information.
Over the past months, the team has worked diligently and with nearly every area of the health centre to apply their information and expertise on how to keep staff, patients and families as safe as possible during the global pandemic. So far, this has included staff education, planning for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), patient screening, contact tracing, cleaning and disinfection, assessment of care areas, and providing recommendations as to how to reopen services. All while still monitoring regular safety practices such as hand hygiene and hospital-associated infection risk assessments.
“Many of these pandemic practices are not new for IPAC and, like with every infectious disease crisis, the vital importance of infection control measures become very obvious and results in lasting, positive changes,” says Ivany. “Infection control practices depends on all of us and compliance is not optional. I have never been prouder of the spectacular teams that make up this special organization! They have jumped into action with military precision to do what needs to be done.”
As with many areas of health care during the pandemic, the IPAC team has faced an immense increase in demand for support from team members which has led to many long days, evenings and weekends. The IPAC team attributes much of their successes to working together and always supporting each other in stressful times. They all agree that it’s been the support of the full IWK team, from Dr. Comeau and their Director Jane Palmer to their coworkers organization-wide, who have made greater safety in the health centre possible.
“The pandemic has really highlighted what we already knew—the IWK is an amazing place to work and we are so fortunate to work alongside such a high caliber of professionals,” adds Maxwell. “We are very grateful for everyone’s patience with our team as we navigate through the constant changing of information. It could be very easy to get frustrated when we show up with yet another practice change, but we have been met with kindness and support every step of the way. We are beyond thankful for this as we know this has not been easy for anyone, us included!”
As the health centre moves forward to the ‘next normal’, IPAC continues to support IWK teams and, as always, looking towards all the possibilities that the future could bring, including further pandemic response.