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 Heather Davidson, a Medical Radiation Technologist.
Heather Davidson has seen a lot in her 28 years working in the Diagnostic Imaging department at Niagara Health.
But nothing to the magnitude of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her department.
“I know my job inside and out and I’ve experienced a lot in my career. I’m really not surprised by anything,” says Heather, a Medical Radiation Technologist. “But this pandemic tested me in ways I’ve never been tested before.”
The Diagnostic Imaging team performs and reviews the results of a wide range of exams, including ultrasound, mammography, X-Rays, CT, MRI and more. The team is made up of Medical Radiation Technologists, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Electrocardiogram Technicians, Porters, Registration/Booking Clerks, EVS staff and Radiologists, physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases using medical imaging.
Before the pandemic, Heather was doing her regular job, preparing patients for CT (Computed Tomography) scans at our St. Catharines Site. In March, she was asked to step into a new role, joining other members of the Diagnostic Imaging team across our sites – leaders and front-line staff – to co-ordinate the department’s response to COVID-19 and ensure the safety of patients, staff and physicians.
During the pandemic, the team has performed only emergency and high-priority imaging exams, including for oncology, obstetrics, Emergency Department and Urgent Care patients and patients admitted to hospital. Thousands of other tests had to be postponed for safety reasons. The team went from carrying out up to 1,300 tests on patients each day to about 500.
Heather is also part of the planning that is now underway to gradually and safely increase the number of patients who can receive tests.
Describe your role during the pandemic?
We have a big department, so we needed to organize the personal protective equipment. We had to make sure everybody – staff and physicians – had what they needed. And we had to look at how to distribute and conserve the PPE and how to acquire it for the department through our Logistics team. There was somebody doing the same thing at each of our sites. We also introduced enhanced cleaning protocols for all of our sites, working with our Infection Prevention and Control team. We made sure everybody was on the same page on how to safely take care of patients and to ensure the safety of our team. We were all working together to standardize everything. We created documents and signage for staff to review if they had any questions about cleaning or PPE and made sure the information was posted in every room. I didn’t want anyone to feel worried about their job. They already knew how to do their job, it was just these added measures to keep everyone safe.
How do we keep patients safe when they come in for a test?
We had to map out routes for each type of patient travelling through every part of the department at all sites. If the patient was COVID positive, it was a different route than others. Logistically it was a big challenge. Everyone had to be in the right place at the right time to keep everybody safe. It was a very thought-out process.
What has been the most challenging part professionally for you during the pandemic?
At the beginning, it was trying to alleviate staff’s worries around the challenge of trying to keep themselves safe, trying to keep their co-workers safe and trying to keep patients safe. It was such an evolving situation at the beginning and information was changing so quickly. We had never dealt with anything like this before. I was trying to make sure my colleagues felt OK at work. We did this by having very clear protocols in place for the department.
Describe the work of the Diagnostic Imaging team during the pandemic?
I am really impressed the way everybody in our department stepped up to the challenge. The people in our department shine every day, but during the pandemic, they’ve all gone above and beyond expectations. It has been incredible. They adapted and they were flexible. There was constant communication with everybody and we all worked through it together. I’m very proud to be part of Niagara Health.
What has been the most challenging part for your personally during the pandemic?
The biggest challenge for me outside of work is that my children who are older (19 and 21 years old) are living with their father right now because I want to ensure they are safe. For the first few months, I didn’t have face-to-face contact with them because there were so many unknowns about the virus. Being away from them was very difficult. I wanted to hug them and my parents. I’m a very huggy person, so it was challenging for me not to be able to express my love for them that way.
Read more In It Together stories about our team here.