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IN IT TOGETHER: A calming presence in a challenging time

Posted Apr 28th, 2020

IN IT TOGETHER:  A calming presence in a challenging time

This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Lesley Collins, Clinical Manager of the unit dedicated to caring for patients with COVID-19 at our St. Catharines Site

For Lesley Collins, one of the most challenging parts about the COVID-19 pandemic hits close to home.

Lesley, a Clinical Manager at our St. Catharines Site, helps to take care of her parents who are in their 80s, but with the need for physical distancing she is unable to see them.

“I take them grocery shopping and I take them for their appointments, and I have not seen them in five weeks,” she says. “It’s very sad, and it’s tough for them. They feel isolated. I talk to them multiple times each day, but it’s not the same as seeing them.”

On the professional side, Lesley took on the added challenge of having her unit, 4A, become the floor dedicated to caring for patients with COVID-19. Lesley had been in her role as Clinical Manager for only five months when that decision was made. But as the medicine and respirology unit, she knew the team on 4A was prepared given their high skill level and experience caring for patients with respiratory illnesses. Lesley, who has 39 years of nursing experience with Niagara Health, was the Charge Nurse on the unit prior to becoming manager.

How has your role changed since the pandemic?

I always try to be a calming presence on the unit for my team. I understand that our team members are anxious, have a lot of questions and need reassurance about their safety and protection, and that’s something I help provide. Those feelings are understandable in these truly unprecedented times. My role is to reassure our team and keep them focused on what we do: caring for our patients. At the beginning of the pandemic, the information was constantly evolving because there were so many unknowns. We had a lot more huddles with the team and more communicating because the situation was quickly evolving. Also, things you do every single day, you have to have a more heightened awareness of how do we continue to deliver care and have a quality work environment in this new world.

Describe the transition to becoming the unit dedicated to caring for COVID-19 patients?

We have a lot of experience caring for patients with respiratory viruses like, for example, Influenza A. This is what we do. There was a lot of planning in advance, and patients we had been caring for on 4A were moved to other units to receive care or were safely discharged home or to another healthcare setting. We now have more precautions in place on the unit to keep our patients and staff safe and protected. All direct care by our team is done wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) -- masks, face shields, gloves and gowns. Honestly, this team is so good.

What’s been most challenging on the unit during the pandemic?

I think our team might have found it difficult at the beginning because of how sick the patients are compared with what they’re used to on this unit. We’ve also found it difficult that patients’ family members are unable to visit. But our team has shown their incredible compassion by helping patients talk to their families on the phone or through video chats. It’s also a different way of doing things in terms of wearing full PPE every time you go into a patient’s room. You have to be very conscious of that to make sure you are donning and doffing your PPE correctly. Being new in my role and then going into a pandemic also has certain challenges. But I have huge support from my Director, Heather Paterson, and (NH Executive Vice President Clinical Services) Derek McNally. Our whole team has been well supported. Heather comes to the unit on a regular basis, and that makes a big difference.

Describe multidisciplinary staff and physician team on Unit 4A?

Everyone is very compassionate and caring. Everyone is really good and highly skilled. We were already tight as a team, but this has made us even tighter. I’m fortunate that we can count on each other.

Describe the support you’ve received from other units at Niagara Health?

Other units have sent “We love you” balloons and messages thanking us for the hard work, which has been super. As a health system, this has brought us closer together. Everybody is trying to help each other out and that is happening at all of our sites. It’s really nice. In order for us to do our job, we need other units across our sites to take on other things we would normally do and care for other patient populations. It has brought us all into an even more cohesive unit. Everybody is interdependent on each other so that we can all do the job together. It’s not just 4A.

 Click on the In It Together button below to read more of our team's stories.

Niagara Health System