In early March, 2020, the world changed. The global pandemic, COVID-19, swept the globe, bringing the norms of daily life to a halt. In British Columbia, a State of Emergency was declared and the healthcare system braced for an influx of patients with the virus.
Canuck Place cares for some of the sickest children in the province, making these kids and families vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. In those early days, information changed daily and essential healthcare workers had to pivot regularly in order to protect those in the community.
Brenda Dewar, Clinical Nurse Manager in Vancouver led the clinical COVID team at Canuck Place. Under her leadership, the nurses and frontline workers navigated unchartered territories, all the while keeping children and families safe and cared for.
In her own words, read Brenda’s account of how Canuck Place continues to provide critical care to children and families and is ensuring both staff and families are safe.
“In the early weeks of COVID-19 when the pandemic was declared, my work ramped up significantly as the leader of the nursing team in Vancouver. The information and directions coming from the Provincial Health Officer and the Ministry of Health were ever changing and keeping up with all the recommendations and directives was challenging. We formed a ‘COVID Team’ and initially met daily to wade through the copious amount of information that was circulating. We discussed what was important for our work based on the directives and recommendations.
We quickly implemented practice changes at both hospices to keep children, families and staff safe and healthy. We wanted to ensure we could keep physical distancing as recommended by Dr. Henry and because that was not always possible when we work closely with children, we began wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We all know more about PPE than we have ever cared to know.
In the first few weeks, I lost sleep with worry about the potential lack of PPE supply. As essential workers, I worried about the team coming into work and then going home to their own families. Thanks to the supply already on hand and generous donations gathered for us from the development office, I am thankful we are well prepared with PPE. It was important to the COVID Team that the nursing team felt safe coming to work. Initially, we were anticipating the surge in patients province wide and we were prepared to help as we could to ease the burden from Children’s Hospital. Eight weeks into the pandemic, B.C. has really flattened the curve and we have not seen the surge that was anticipated so far. We cannot rest yet, as this pandemic will continue for some time. We need to continue to screen children, families and staff and anybody that enters the space so staff and families feel safe and stay healthy.
As essential workers, Canuck Place nurses have come to work from the beginning of the pandemic ready to do the work that Canuck Place does so expertly and gracefully. Infants, children and youth are still struggling with life threatening conditions and we have had several deaths since early March. Nurses are here as always providing expert compassionate care but now with goggles and masks on. Nurses have anxiety and worry about COVID-19 and the impact it can have on family and friends. Because nurses are not able to physically distance, they worry about getting the virus and exposing others at work or to their families. Having quick access to testing has offered peace of mind to many.
These are uncertain times for everybody, including nurses. My hope is that scientists will find a vaccine soon and Canuck Place can once again open to all children and families that need us. I want to see and hear the house full again with our volunteers and staff who are working from home. The connection we have with each other in this work is so important.”
Thank you Brenda, for your incredible leadership always, and especially during the COVID crisis.