CHARLOTTE – When COVID-19 rates began to surge in December, Novant Health saw a problem emerge: bedside nurses were overextended.
“We started experiencing a pandemic surge of COVID-19 patients, and it just started escalating at exponential numbers in all of our facilities,” says Operation All In Coordinator Christie White. “What we knew was that our nurses at the bedside really needed help; we just really didn’t have enough team members to provide help in all capacities.”
Chief Nursing and Clinical Operations Officer Denise Mihal proposed a solution: if individuals from within Novant could volunteer their time to help, it would relieve some of the burden from these nurses. “At first we found nurses in other areas of the organization that could go into the facilities and directly assist the nurses – we term those as ‘RN Assist’ or ‘CNA assist,’ says White. But not every volunteer needs to be a trained clinician. “We also have a job role that’s called a ‘Runner,’” continues White. “Those people are able to go get supplies and empty trash and do all of the extra necessary items that just give the nurses an extra hand.”
“I’m in public relations, but I had the opportunity to go and work in one of our COVID units,” says Senior Corporate Public Relations Specialist Robin Baltimore. “The staff was so appreciative! And it made me really appreciate what our frontline staff are going through. To actually see it firsthand was pretty phenomenal. It just gave me a whole different perspective of our organization and what we’re doing.”
“I was so surprised at how much PPE they went through!” continues Baltimore. “Every time they go in a room, they have to change that plastic gown and the mask they wear over their N95. A lot of what I was doing was just going to the stockroom and keeping that PPE right there in front of each door. I didn’t realize just how much and how much time it takes to change everything before they go into a room.”
Assistance like the type Baltimore provided – emptying trash, stocking PPE – frees bedside nurses to focus on caring for their patients. “Where we don’t have the amount of nurses needed for the influx of patients that we’re receiving, it really minimizes, how often the nurses can get into the patient’s room and how quickly they can meet a patient’s needs,” says White. “This influx of volunteers that are coming in really has made a significant difference. It provides assistance for nurses and allows them to have additional help so that they can provide the one-on-one focused care to their patients.”
Volunteers for Operation All In come from all over the organization: providers, certified medical assistants, physicians’ assistants, and nurse practitioners, to name a few. “It’s just a large array of team members from across the organization that has capacity in their current job role, or are willing to volunteer additional hours throughout the workweek,” says White.
Operation All In is an ever-changing program, constantly adapting to what medical facilities need in these unprecedented times. Since December, it’s grown from a small volunteer effort to a large operation that covers all twelve Novant facilities across the organization in addition to vaccine clinics in the Greater Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Eastern markets. To date, Operation All In has had 2793 volunteers across the organization including 81 right here at Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center.
“We’re very adaptable, very flexible, very nimble,” says White. “We look every day at the needs; we monitor numbers. We try to be adaptive, and we’ve started using an app that allows us to be able to staff team members more appropriately. Oftentimes we find out the day before that we’re adding new slots for vaccine recipients and we have to get more volunteers to be able to accommodate, or we’re removing slots and we have to call off team members and then put them in other areas of the organization that needs help the most.”
Recently, Operation All In volunteers garnered the attention of both WSOC and WCNC for their assistance with team member COVID vaccinations. Nurses administer vaccinations to fellow team members, but there are also plenty of opportunities for volunteers without medical training. “We provide runners that help team members with checking in,” says White. “We fill clerical roles that allow team members to check-in and register before going to get their shot. We have another person that’s a monitor, so after the people receive their shots, the monitor will walk through and make sure that everybody’s feeling okay and they’re not having any side effects.”
As long as there is a need for it, says White, Operation All In will continue. “We’ll be wherever there is a true need that we can provide assistance for.”