Teamwork, flexibility helps 5SE staff navigate pandemic changes | Ascension

Teamwork, flexibility helps 5SE staff navigate pandemic changes

5SE at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis was a stroke and general medical-surgical unit up until last November, when it was converted to a COVID-19 unit to meet the needs of that growing patient population.

Now, with the marked decrease in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the unit has undergone another change: Going back to caring for their previous patient population. During the conversion, team members floated to other hospital units which, as they have come back together, has led to a renewed appreciation for what makes their team special as well as what led to the significant increase in patient experience scores during the pandemic.

"They've been amazing," says Natalie Hertzel, the unit's nurse manager. "Their teamwork and flexibility given all the changes has been outstanding. While change can be challenging, they embraced it when our unit became dedicated to caring for patients with COVID-19 and were willing to do what they needed to do to provide the best patient care."

They're bringing those same strengths to their current practice where they are caring for patients with a wide variety of diagnosis and often even more complex conditions than they saw as a dedicated medical-surgical COVID-19 unit.

"Hearing the 5SE team speak about their unit and teamwork gave me chills," says Sara Herridge, APRN, director of Practice Transformation, who recently rounded on the unit to see how associates were doing. "In my nearly 20 years as a nurse, I have never seen a stronger connection among team members."

Megan Henry, who began working on the unit as a patient care technician in November, says that everyone works well together and are adapting to the changes well, because "we stand behind each other on decisions that are made."

She says nurses on the unit are great teachers, which is helpful given that Henry and most of her fellow patient care technicians are in school to become an RN or LPN.

COVID-19 has made make them a closely knit unit. "We depended on each other, which increased our trust in each other," Henry says.

Amy Rogers, RN, agrees.

"Our teamwork is so great because we can laugh and cry together to get through the day," Rogers says. "Nobody is afraid to say, 'Come help,'" she says, adding that even the unit clerks will come help, answer a call light and take care of the situation when they can instead of calling someone else.

That's because everyone shares a common goal, says patient care tech Deserea Murdock, who has worked on the unit for nearly two years: "Putting the patients' needs first and making sure we are working together to meet those needs."