‘Going the extra mile’

News / General
By Christine Maloney

During this third wave, a record number of COVID-19 admissions to KSHC for acute care has been met with resilience and grace

The COVID-19 pandemic has often been described as a marathon, not a sprint. With a finish line that is off in the distance, health-care workers on Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) COVID-19 inpatient units are regularly going an extra mile, or two, for their patients and each other.

Cristina Assuncao-Costa is one of 63 patients who have been transferred over the past five weeks to KHSC’s COVID units, which were created for patients who require a less critical level of care. Assuncao-Costa, who was transferred from Scarborough, used the word ‘amazing’ to describe the care she received.

“I found the staff extremely friendly; they took the best care of me ever; and they were always going the extra mile, even during this difficult time. I thank them all, and commend their professionalism in every way.”

For many patients hospitalized with COVID-19, their lives were upended very quickly. One day they were feeling fine and within a few days they were in the hospital having serious difficulty breathing and doing everyday activities of life, such as talking and sitting up in bed.

Whether people are admitted to the COVID-19 units directly or transferred there from the Intensive Care Unit, the treatment on the dedicated units is focused on helping patients build the strength to do simple things like get out of bed; activities that people were doing independently before.

The quick onset of illness is often a shock to patients and their loved ones. That’s when the care team’s efforts to go above and beyond are especially appreciated.

A Department of National Defense nurse on placement at KHSC once waited three hours past the end of his shift to welcome a patient being transferred from the Greater Toronto Area in her first language.

“He recognized the upheaval the patient was likely facing and felt it would be a comfort to her to be able to speak with one of her care providers in her preferred language; his instincts were right,” says Stephanie Gayle, interim clinical learning specialist on KHSC’s COVID-19 units.

And then there are the smiles behind the masks. Social worker Teigen van der Wal had a patient once tell her: “I appreciate you smiling underneath your mask.” Van der Wal admits that it is sometimes hard to smile during all the changes and stress, but realizes that it is a seemingly small gesture that might help more than can be known.

“Social work involves making connections between different groups in society, and COVID-19 is like a dangerous concrete wall, wobbling between those groups, threatening to sever those connections and hurt people,” says van der Wal. “Smiling behind my mask is an important attempt at connection and reassurance for patients, families and my coworkers.”

Smiling at each other can convey the simple message, ‘you’re not alone.’ Knowing and feeling that can make all the difference during these difficult times.

The day after KHSC’s secondary COVID-19 unit opened to patients, the supervisor on the floor, registered nurse Kate Murphy said: “We feel the unwavering support of everyone on the unit. It's a feeling that helps shoulder responsibility. It's palpable and appreciated.”  

Creating and running the dedicated COVID-19 units has been a momentous team effort involving many groups, including the physicians, the department that manages the flow of patients in and out of the hospital, Allied Health, Infection Prevention and Control, Occupational Health, Environmental Services, Nutrition Services, Protection Services, People Services, Material Management, and Communications.

Throughout our sites, Murphy says she sees colleagues stepping up to meet challenges. “There is camaraderie and pride in being part of that call to do our very best.”