AORN Blog - The Periop Life

VA Operating Room Nurses Answer COVID-19 Call of Duty

A Guest Blog Post from Shana (Shakhnoza) Rodriguez, BSN, RN, CNOR

McGuire Veterans Medical Center, Richmond, VA


Improve Morale

June 24, 2020

When someone mentions operating room nurses the first thing that comes to mind is people covered from head to toe and faces hidden behind masks. A lot of people have no idea of what we do behind the red line that divides the restricted and non-restricted areas. Even nurses of different specialties have only vague ideas of what OR nursing entails, and I often get questions about what exactly our role in the operating room is.

An anecdotic truth about operating room nurses, is that we can easily get lost in our own hospital because we rarely get out of the ORs.

Times have changed as a perioperative nurse at the McGuire Veterans Medical Center in Richmond, VA. I’ve now seen firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our nation. Because of this, a lot of units needed medically trained professionals to provide adequate care for patients arriving to hospitals at an increasing rate. OR nurses stepped up to help and support nurses working on the front lines. For example, a group of our OR nurses were deployed to screen veterans for COVID-19 at the stations in our Drive-Through Clinic (DTC) located in our garage. So, patients arriving with COVID-19 symptoms would be tested before they went to the ER, which reduced exposure of ER employees and other patients with non-COVID-19 emergencies.

Infection Prevention Expertise

Due to the cancelations of elective cases, our newly opened post-anesthesia care unit was transformed into a unit specifically for COVID-19 positive patients. ICU nurses floating there cross-trained PACU nurses while OR nurses helped them properly don/doff PPEs to prevent contamination. OR nurses are well-versed when it comes to infection control and prevention of contamination. PACU and ICU nurses shared how protected they felt because OR nurses were observing and assisting them with PPEs.

Besides observing and teaching other healthcare providers to consult or properly assess COVID-19 positive patients, our OR nurses provided support by running blood gases, bringing extra supplies, medications, etc. to nurses working inside the COVID-19 rooms, so they didn’t have to constantly don/doff PPEs if they forgot something.

Doing What Needs to Be Done

Another group of nurses are working at the veteran’s nursing home and hospice care units. They help provide care for the veterans residing there or working by the entrances of those units checking healthcare providers’ temperatures before they enter. Since our in-house barber shop closed due to strict quarantine rules, a lot of the veterans needed haircuts and shaving. Our podiatry service coordinator Barrett Smith bought all necessary supplies and gave haircuts and shaved patients at the nursing home and hospice units.

It’s during times like these that an all-hands-on-deck mentality is required to adequately serve our veterans. Providing the best possible care to achieve positive outcomes and protect patients from COVID-19 are our top goals, and our OR team has never hesitated to volunteer where needed during this challenging and heart-breaking time.

As a wife of a veteran, I would like to recognize their selfless service and show my appreciation for their work and dedication to our patients that serve our country.

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