by Dawn Thompson, DOR, Victoria Post Acute Care, El Cajon, CA

Victoria Post Acute (VPAC) is one of the few skilled nursing facilities accepting COVID-19-positive residents from hospitals in San Diego and El Centro. Like other buildings with positive COVID cases, the beginning stage was certainly an upheaval from “normal” daily routines, as we were thrown into a world of unknowns with ever-changing directions and recommendations, coupled with fear. Schedules were slim, admissions were down, and stress was high. The rehab gym became a room with social distancing markers and a storage room. Hallways turned into PPE stations.

During this time, the rehab staff jumped into every and all support roles necessary (maintenance, dietary, CNA, etc.). They did this without asking and without hesitation, day in and day out, and continue to be heroes to this day. During this time, multiple rehab staff members were out sick, testing positive for COVID. As a team, we focused on “scared is what you’re feeling, brave is what you’re doing” and really went out of our way to emotionally support one another. We had daily emotional check-ins, both as group and individually.

This was a time of great loss in the building, where almost all sense of “normalcy” at VPAC and in the rehab department was absent. Grasping to maintain some normalcy and trying to keep our well patients well, we were able to work with Kaiser to evaluate and treat all appropriate Kaiser LTC residents in the non-COVID unit to maintain strength, activity tolerance and functional status. As our in-house COVID-19-positive patients stabilized medically, rehab jumped in and worked side by side with our new respiratory therapist. We were able to assist in positioning for postural drainage and help her hear true lung sounds of our ill patients.

We have learned a tremendous amount from our experiences treating COVID-positive patients (pay attention to those vital signs!) and have grown in confidence. The fear has dissipated and has been replaced with pride. This transformation was one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve had together as a team. I believe this shift was guided by transparent and efficient communication between IDT members and floor staff. While we seem to have our footing right now, this is an ever-changing process and we are continuously learning, growing and adapting.

As the days and weeks pass, admissions are starting to return, PPE requirements are changing, and barrier placements are being removed. Through it all, VPAC has remained resilient and together. Despite the loss and havoc of the first few weeks, we’ve found reasons (many, many, many reasons) to smile and celebrate. We have celebrated resident successes/discharges, birthdays, a retirement (DON), bridal shower, nurses week/nursing home week, Tuesdays and each other. We have been able to celebrate a COVID-19-positive patient (the husband of one of our charge nurses) being discharged home, walking out hand in hand with his wife after a month of hospitalization/rehabilitation including intubation.

Thank you all for the support, friendship and love over the last several weeks. It was needed and is much appreciated. I continue to be the proudest team leader.

Stay safe, wash your hands and keep your hands off your face!

With much love and gratitude,
Dawn ☺