Linda Carroll, MSN, RN-BC
Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Patient Care Services, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, New Brunswick
We’re starting to get back to normal,” says Carroll, who has worked at Saint Peter’s for 36 years. She started as a nurse and now oversees all clinical staff, making sure the hospital is up-to-date on all the PPE it needs.
“My mission is to keep staff safe,” she says. “The worst thing is if you don’t have the tools to do your job.”
During the coronavirus outbreak, the majority of hospital patients were those who tested positive for the virus. All areas of the hospital were mobilized to deal with the influx and staff from other areas stepped in where needed. Carroll says procedures such as proning, where patients are placed on their stomachs, lessened the need for many to be on ventilators.
“We would prone them with the hope that it would prolong or eliminate need for a respirator. Our clinical nurses came from all over the hospital. Anyone with critical care background pitched in,” she says.
Carroll says the way she and her staff got through the tough times were by finding little things to celebrate.
“At 6:30 in the morning and then again at 6:30 at night, all admin staff greeted our staff as they came into the hospital,” she says. There were treats handed out such as energy bars, compression stockings and meal cards for McDonald’s.
“It was emotionally stressful,” she says. “Any time a patient was discharged who was COVID-positive we would play a song,” she says. Recently, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was played as a patient left the hospital healthy.
“We set up a Zen room where we had massage chairs donated, aromatherapy [and] we would have TVs with ocean sounds playing, lounge chairs for staff to take a break,” she says. A staff-driven support group, Masks Off, where staff could get together and support each other, was particularly important.
One of the most difficult things were the restrictions on visitors for sick patients. “We purchased iPads so families could stay connected and communicate through technology,” she says. “Our staff put their fears aside and were bedside with dying patients who didn’t have anyone.”
Carroll, who has a husband and three children, ages 24, 19 and 17, says that although it was a scary time, she liked having all of her children home during the quarantine.
“One day, my youngest started crying at the table and we got up and took a hike at Cheesequake Park. That’s something we would normally never do. We did more things as a family,” she says.