I was transitioning from Orthopedic Navigator to Director of Perioperative Services (including the total joint replacement program) when the COVID-19 virus struck the United States. Because I am an exempt employee I continued to work when many of my pre-op and ambulatory care nurses were flexed off due to suspended elective surgeries. To pick up the slack, I filled in as the IV nurse, putting in #18 and 20 gauge catheters for surgery. I remember after I started the first one on the first day thinking that it had been almost 8 years since I started a 18 gauge IV and more than two years since I had put in IVs on a regular basis. Oddly enough I didn’t miss any sticks that day. My pre-op and ambulatory care nurses had a much more difficult road ahead of them. Because they were flexed off in my department they were deployed to med-surg and ICU to care for acute and COVID patients. Most of these nurses have been away from bedside acute care nursing for years. They had to deal with the anxiety of practicing in unfamiliar areas as caregivers for very sick patients. These nurses feared not only for the patients but for themselves and their own families as they faced the possibility of contracting the virus and carrying it home with them. Several opted to take their PTO in lieu of being deployed to these areas. And while my staff was dealing with these problems, the orthopedic unit nurses found themselves caring for med-surg and cardiac patients in lieu of hip, knee and shoulder replacement patients. Their only orientation a few computer training modules. Most of these nurses haven’t monitored chest tubes, titrated medications or administered bladder irrigation for years if ever! Everywhere I looked, I saw anxious nurses teaming up, figuring things out and giving it their all to take care of all of these patients. Yes, they prefer slings over drains, walkers and gait belts to tele monitors and external fixators to nephrology tubes but our orthopedic nurses are heroes who braved their own insecurities and misgivings provide the best care to every type of patient during this pandemic crisis! I’m proud to know them, and serve to lead them!
-Angie Sturgill, MSN, RN