Nurses in the driver’s seat at COVID-19 drive-thru testing centers

COVID-19 drive-thru testing centers are often staffed by RNs whose normal jobs have been interrupted by the pandemic.

Melissa Bacon, BSN, RN, CNOR, recalls how when one door closed during the COVID-19 crisis, another opened. As the doors at the Cleveland Clinic’s Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center, in Twinsburg, Ohio, temporarily closed during the pandemic, Bacon accepted the task to run Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in a parking garage of the main campus.

“As many healthcare systems, we had to adapt to this new world of COVID-19, so many of the employees have been deployed to other places to support the needs of our COVID-19 patients,” Bacon, nurse manager of the surgery center, said.

Kadie Randel, BSN, RN, nursing manager for Primary Care Pediatrics at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho, was in a similar situation. In mid-March, Randel stepped in as lead RN for one of four COVID-19 testing tents the health system has in Idaho.

What’s the job like?

The testing center leadership team of nursing managers at St. Luke’s begin their days helping set up the tents with needed supplies and required personal protective equipment. Nurses, nursing assistants and patient specialists who register patients work at each of the tents.

The day starts with a morning safety huddle, during which a nurse educator talks through donning and doffing PPE and safety strategies throughout the day, according to Randel.

“They make sure our swabbers, which have been LPNs and medical assistants, are signed off on their competency before doing the swabs,” Randel said. “I usually run the nurses who are doing the screenings through an orientation of the materials. As we all know with COVID-19, it has been very fluid. CDC regulations have changed testing criteria. Part of our responsibility as the nurse leaders for the tent is making sure we are up to date with any changes that may have occurred the night before.”

Bacon oversees about 40 people at her testing site. Nurses, including assistant nurse managers and charge nurses, make up part of the staff. Medical assistants make up about 75% of the team.

The training for roles in testing centers doesn’t take long but it’s vital for safety. Staff from nursing education, infection prevention and quality lend their support to Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 drive-thru testing site, teaching nurses and other staff about proper donning and doffing of PPE, what PPE is needed for each testing site patient care role, as well as proper swabbing technique, according to Bacon.

Not your typical nursing role

Randel and her staff have worked outside challenges like snow, rain and strong winds.

“We did have to close Easter weekend because we had 24-mile-an-hour winds,” she said. “And of course we’ll close for lightening, but otherwise we’re staying open. We’re in the Rocky Mountains. It can be gorgeous and 75 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next.”

The type of care nurses can provide at make-shift testing sites is different than what they would do in the clinic or …read more

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