The Chronicle Herald: Preparing for a pandemic: A glimpse inside the QEII during COVID-19

Chris Fraser

Chris Fraser is a registered nurse and health services manager, QEII Health Sciences Centre MSIMCU, burns and plastics. - Contributed

Originally published on

As a registered nurse and health services manager at the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s COVID19 Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU), I want to thank Nova Scotians for doing their part to flatten the curve.

The IMCU team provides specialized care for patients who require an enhanced level of care due to severity of their illness. Even before Nova Scotia had its first positive COVID-19 case, we jumped into action to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. The IMCU put several safety measures into place, such as counter-to-ceiling plexiglass around the nurses’ station to protect staff when COVID-19 patients are in transit within the IMCU. Additionally, to keep the virus contained, the unit was transformed to all private patient rooms by removing curtain dividers and adding temporary walls with doors and windows.

We optimized our team’s scope of practice to accommodate a larger variety of patients and enhance continuity of care. We’ve spent countless hours working through intense daily training and simulations: proper use of N95 masks, putting on and taking off (donning and doffing) personal protective equipment, and training on specialized mannequins to work through many different types of patient situations to help prepare our team, such as how to provide care for COVID-19 patients who have cardiac or respiratory arrests.

Being prepared is the first line of defense to help patients and to protect health-care staff from COVID-19. Because of our intense training, we’re now able to care for patients requiring enhanced levels of medical intervention. We’re able to manage COVID-19 patients holistically, including the administration and management of specific medications that may have previously only been administered in ICU.

I couldn’t be more proud of our team and I don’t think there’s anyone at the QEII who hasn’t stepped up to the challenge. Patients without COVID-19 still need routine care and many areas of the QEII are taking additional patient loads, allowing COVID-19 units to specialize during the pandemic. Everyone – from maintenance staff, housekeeping, linen services and porters, to nurses, physicians and other health-care staff – is fighting this virus together.

While taking steps to ensure the best quality patient care and keep staff safe, there is an underlying stress felt by many about the risks of getting sick or taking COVID-19 home to their families. It’s a delicate balance to manage patient care and self-risk and, like the instructions given during an airplane’s pre-flight safety briefing, it’s important for us to prioritize our own health so we’re able to help our community. 

Health-care teams across Canada have been stepping up while the rest of the country is asked to stay home. We’re grateful for the support of our community and the many local businesses who have reached out to frontline staff. 

Thank you, Nova Scotia, for taking care of us so we can take care of you.

Chris Fraser is a registered nurse and health services manager, QEII Health Sciences Centre MSIMCU, burns and plastics.