Cedars-Sinai ICU nurses use technology and teamwork to care for patients and combat the coronavirus

RN Lauren Yamashita works in the ICU at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey

Caring for some of the sickest patients during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way ICU nurse Lauren Yamashita, RN, and her colleagues at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital approach patient care.

Before the pandemic, nurses within each unit at the 133-bed hospital would all work together to get a newly admitted patient settled into a room, Yamashita said in a video diary from the hospital on Monday. Now, in an effort to limit exposure to the virus, they’ve had to limit the number of nurses that can enter a patient’s room.

“So, it kind of feels like we’ve got our hands tied behind our back, because the second we get a new patient everyone wants to run in the room and help settle the patient in, but we can’t,” she said.

Still, Yamashita said the ICU team has come up with unique ways to work together, including removing full trash bags so that their colleagues on the environmental services team don’t have to make multiple trips into patient rooms, and writing notes on door windows to flag down help or request additional supplies. These steps have been crucial in limiting potential exposure to the virus.

“We don’t want to open the doors more than we need to,” she said.

A more welcome change in Yamashita’s routine has been the influx of help from fellow nurses.

“What’s so inspiring to me is actually in the ICU right now our staff is doubled every day, pretty much,” Yamashita said, “And it’s inspiring to see so many coworkers willing to come in extra days to help out. That’s definitely something that I think keeps us going, it keeps us feeling like a team.”

That extra help gives Yamashita the time she needs to focus on things like connecting with patients’ families, an important task at a time when hospital visitation has been restricted in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

Yamashita says she gives families detailed updates, answers their questions and often relays their messages back to their loved one in the ICU.

“I’m hoping that that alleviates some of the stress because I know it’s hard on the family too,” she said.

Like Yamashita, Irine Quintas, RN, and her team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have been trying to come up with ways to limit exposure to COVID-19.

“We try to cluster our care, so each time we go in a patient’s room, we go there, we stay there for a few minutes, doing everything we can so that we don’t have to go back in and out all the time,” Quintas shared in her video diary on Monday, still wearing a protective mask.

The ICU team has also enlisted the help of technology, using smart devices like Alexa, tablets and smartphones to connect with patients, and to connect patients to their families back home.

“We try to provide them with a charger if their cell phones run out of battery, just little things like that,” Quintas said.

For patients, those “little things” add up to a lot.

“We’ve discharged some of our patients home and they send us back messages, thanking us for talking to them and encouraging them during a difficult time,” Quintas said.

A version of this story originally appeared on Cedars-Sinai News. Watch video diaries by the nurses featured in this story at cedars-sinai.org/newsroom to learn more.

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