Changing rooms. And patients!

If COVID has confirmed one thing, it’s that change is a constant.

And the staff in 7 West have seen their fair share of change over the last six months.

Nurse Unit Manager, Georgina Knuckey, said the ward has gone from caring for general medicine patients to those suspected of having COVID to confirmed COVID patients and back again a number of times since the pandemic began.

“Our role is the ‘swing’ ward means that staff have had to be very flexible and adapt to changes in our model of care - often with very little notice,” Georgina said

“This means there are changes to the patient mix and we’ve had to respond so quickly that sometimes staff have been told on the day that they can’t wear their normal uniform but instead need to wear scrubs and bring a change of clothes.

“The way they’ve responded has been amazing.

“As staff in different areas across Austin know, wearing full PPE during a shift makes coming to work very different and is something staff often need to mentally prepare for. Even small things like making sure they’re well hydrated and have gone to the toilet before they start their shift now need to be part of their routine because PPE means there is less flexibility,” she said.

Georgina said the process of physically preparing the ward to switch from general medicine to COVID or suspected COVID is a challenge staff have had to meet.

“They need to ensure all patients are discharged and the whole ward is cleaned before we can switch from one to the other,” she said.

“The teamwork has been amazing and all of the staff involved continue to work so hard to ensure we can provide the best possible care.

“The condition of COVID patients can change quickly and there is potentially an increased risk to staff when we are performing respiratory interventions.

"This means that everyone has had to work together even more closely than normal to develop clear plans in the event that a patient does deteriorate, and be very conscious and careful about how they are interacting with the patient at close quarters. Staff are constantly needing to think about keeping themselves and colleagues safe while still reassuring and caring for an often anxious and unwell patient.

“This teamwork has been on display across the different disciplines on the ward right through from ward clerks, health assistants, PSAs, to nurses doctors and allied health staff. Aspects of everyone’s roles can be different from what they did pre-COVID.

“We’ve also had our nursing graduates come through and even had one group of grads go through a change from general medicine to SCOVID within two days of commencing their graduate program.

“It’s been a testament to the nursing staff who have supported the grads and taken them on what is a very strange journey and the grads themselves have also shared their learnings with each other including developing a list of tips and tricks to manage shifts wearing full PPE,” Georgina said.

The Head of the COVID Unit, A/Prof Trubiano, said he was very proud of the 7 West team.

"They have adapted to an enormous amount of change and have accommodated every "COVID challenge" that has been thrown their way," A/Prof Trubiano said.