University Hospital Nursing Staff Reflects on Pandemic One Year Later
Taken from Tap Into Newark
By TOM WIEDMANN
April 11, 2021
When the coronavirus pandemic descended upon University Hospital in Newark last year, nothing could have prepared its employees for what would soon become a call for unprecedented, timely decisions, shortages of protective equipment, new procedures and protocol, and daily staffing predicaments.
Now, nearly a year later since the medical facility found itself in the throes of the pandemic, Dr. Carl Kirton, chief nursing officer at University Hospital, and his team reflected on how the virus has forever changed the staff’s operations.
Situated near Newark Liberty International Airport, which sees more than 40 million travelers per year come through its terminals, Kirton said that as news of COVID-19 began to circulate in early 2020 with reports of its contagiousness and fatal effects, he knew the medical facility would find itself on a frontline battle with the virus.
“When we started to get wind of the virus and that it could potentially affect us given our proximity to the airport, we began to plan as an organization what we were going to do,” Kirton told TAPinto Newark.
In preparation for an incoming surge of patients, the nursing officer explained that any vacant space in the hospital soon became a commodity and would have to be retrofitted to accommodate the dire situation.
However, before the staff could fully prepare, Kirton said that while he was home one evening, the impending news came. He was informed that the hospital was about to administer its first three patients, a family of two parents and one child, experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
“There was a lot of work to be done because these were the first patients coming into Newark [potentially] with COVID,” he said.
“When we received our first case, that’s when it really hit us,” Intensive Care Unit Nurse Shazam Bacchus said. “We switched over from one way of working to another way. There was so much high risk from understanding what we were dealing with prior to dealing with something we know nothing about.”
As it turned out, the patients did not test positive for the virus, but Kirton noted that the experience had his staff ready to handle what was coming down the pike.
“After that, it was just a flood of patients coming in day-to-day, mostly through our emergency department. It was just continuous, nonstop,” he said.
With an influx of infected patients administered to the facility daily, the nursing officer said that almost all available rooms such as patient care units, emergency department space, critical care space, pediatric and labor-delivery units were taken.
“Every single space in our hospital was filled with COVID patients,” he said.