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IN IT TOGETHER: A focus on safety in the surgical program

Posted Nov 13th, 2020

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 Idella George, a Perioperative Nurse at our St. Catharine Site. This week is Perioperative Nurses Week.

Talk to Idella George about her work and there is a good chance she will say the word safety a lot.

Safety is her prime focus in her role as a Perioperative Nurse at our St. Catharines Site surgical department.

The safety of patients and the safety of our team.

And that attention to safety has never been more paramount for Idella and other members of the team than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Idella was the acting Charge Nurse for the operating room (OR) in the early days of the pandemic.

“The OR is a high-risk area for COVID exposure because we do aerosol-generating medical procedures,” says Idella, a member of the Niagara Health team for 15 years. “We developed a lot of new policies and procedures to manage these types of patients to ensure we were keeping our staff and patients safe. In the early days, things were changing each day and some people were anxious. My focus was on keeping patients and staff safe and reassuring them that we had a good process in place.”

Perioperative Nurses assess patients' needs throughout the surgical experience and develop a plan for their care. They also prepare the operating room and patient for their procedure.

Idella has since returned to her regular role as a Resource Nurse for the anesthesia and vascular services in the surgical program. She is responsible for staff education, including training the team on new procedures and overseeing new staff orientation, and ensuring each department has an appropriate level of supplies and equipment.

She also provides direct patient care by preparing them for their surgery.

“We review with them what will be happening in the operating room,” she says. “We are there to answer questions. We are there to hold their hands. These patients are sometimes anxious, so it is a time to develop a rapport with them and comfort them, and ensure that they are settled as possible.”

The impact of the pandemic

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Provincial Government asked all hospitals to postpone elective surgeries and other non-emergent clinical activity to protect patient safety and increase capacity for healthcare workers to respond to COVID-19. About 3,000 surgical procedures were put on hold at Niagara Health, but our team continued to perform emergent and urgent surgeries. 

Niagara Health has since successfully resumed scheduled surgeries and other services paused during the first wave of the pandemic. This work is taking place amid new COVID safety measures, which include physical distancing in waiting rooms and increased cleaning between appointments. 

The focus on safety remains a top priority, says Idella

“We have developed solid procedures, policies and protocols to ensure everyone’s safety as we have ramped up our services,” she says. “I think people are feeling safe and comfortable in what we are doing. We have amazing people on our surgical team who have great knowledge behind them.”

Idella says she’s very proud to be part of the Perioperative Nursing team.

“They are a great team. We can be working and having a routine day, but in a matter of seconds things can change here in the OR when emergencies arise. And you want to be working with a group of people who you can rely on and who you can count on. We have that kind of team here.”


Niagara Health System