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Our Stories

Collaborating to provide safer care for pregnant patients and newborns during COVID-19

Toronto, May 13, 2020

By Selma Al-Samarrai

From left to right: Registered Nurse Natalia Patchett, CLM Michelle O’Connor, Registered Nurses Ashley Ovsey, Kelly Coghlin and Kari Harte, and Clinical Nurse Educator Catherine Bishop.
From left to right: Registered Nurse Natalia Patchett, CLM Michelle O’Connor, Registered Nurses Ashley Ovsey, Kelly Coghlin and Kari Harte, and Clinical Nurse Educator Catherine Bishop. (Photo: Yuri Markarov, Medical Media) Enlarge photo

Earlier this year, the three units that provide care to pregnant patients and newborns at St. Michael’s Hospital realized that by collaborating more closely, they could enhance their patients’ experience. Little did they know that within a few short weeks, this work would be more important than ever in keeping the whole team up to date on the best way to keep their patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are a large interdisciplinary team and it was becoming apparent that there were gaps in communication among our team, so we created a daily huddle,” said Kari Harte, one of the Labour and Delivery team’s registered nurses who led this work, alongside Kelly Coghlin, Ashley Ovsey and Natalia Patchett, a registered nurse in Obstetrics and Gyneacology.

“Its main focus was to provide an opportunity for us to identify barriers, discuss how our patients were moving between units and talk about staffing and organizational needs.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the daily huddles between the units – Labour and Delivery, Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – quickly became twice-daily huddles. They created a space where staff could plan, in real time, how to care for their patients together, and to ensure that all of the associated resources were in place.

“Some things we discuss during the huddles include possible scenarios that might occur for patients who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 on the unit – their medical management, what the transfer process to the operating room would look like, and which interprofessional team would need to be at the birth,” said Michelle O’Connor, Clinical Leader Manager of the Women & Children's Health Program which the three units are part of.

Other topics covered include necessary personal protective equipment, the hospital’s policies on COVID-19, and how to continue to maintain a safe environment for all patients and staff. At the end of every huddle, there’s time for anyone on the team to ask questions and have a discussion about anything that’s still unclear.

The huddles include representation from all of the professionals who work on the units including obstetricians, paediatricians, anesthesiologists, residents, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, social workers and clinical nurse educators.

“The overall success and implementation of this project is really strengthening our sense of teamwork and support,” said Harte. “The huddles have created an important opportunity for us to come together as a united front so we’re all on the same page about what it means to deliver the best care during this extraordinary time.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit www.unityhealth.to.

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