Stepping out of their comfort zone and onto an entirely new Covid unit

Within the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), staff have been redeployed to meet the demands of COVID-19. Over the last few weeks, Dr. Kevin Schwartzman, director of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at the MUHC, and his colleagues have been devoted to ramping up capacity--in part by converting part of the Centre for Innovative Medicine at the Glen, a space usually reserved for research, into C4, a unit dedicated entirely to caring for patients with COVID-19. In a matter of weeks, COVID ward capacity grew to over 100 beds across the MUHC, while COVID ICU capacity grew to 50 beds. None of this would have been possible without the redeployment of healthcare staff, who are without a doubt, MUHC Champions.

Dr. Kevin Schwartzman

Cordelia McNeal is a nurse clinician at the Montreal Chest Institute Day Hospital who took on the challenge of setting up C4 – the first COVID Unit as its nurse manager. She and her team had one week to prepare the area to receive patients, and along with the tight timeline, came difficult emotions linked to the uncertainty of the pandemic. The experience, however, has been rewarding. “There is a feeling of accomplishment when we discharge a patient off the unit,” says Cordelia. “There is also a strong sense of teamwork and community particularly because the nurses on the unit volunteered to work here.” 

Cordelia McNeal

Physicians have also been reassigned outside their specialties to provide bedside care to patients infected with COVID-19. Dr. Beatrice Wang, director of the MUHC Melanoma Clinic, is one of six dermatologists to step out of her specialty to work on the COVID unit. “I was quite anxious about working outside my specialty, because it’s been a few decades since I’ve been on the wards, and I am not an internist. But I’ve been partnered up with amazing respirologists and so far, it has gone well. We all stepped forward because we want to help,” she says.

Dr. Beatrice Wang

Despite knowing that the virus can be highly infectious, that there is no cure or vaccine yet, and that many patients would need life-saving medical care, like champions, those on C4 stepped up and faced the uncertainty head on.

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