COVID-19 has fundamentally upended and altered the healthcare field in a number of ways, especially in the nursing profession. Since the onset of the pandemic, nurses have rushed to treat patients suffering from this new disease while simultaneously facing ever-evolving protocols and procedures for how care is delivered.
Meredith Nevin ’00, a registered nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, has played a pivotal role in the hospital’s response to the pandemic. A 10-year veteran of an orthopedic floor, Nevin shifted gears at the onset of the pandemic, helping to establish the acute-care COVID-19 unit, where she provided direct care to COVID-19 patients as a nurse, while also serving as charge nurse of the unit.
Nevin organized staff assignments and resources throughout the hospital while keeping a pulse on the constant change in COVID-19 procedures and policies. Approximately every six hours, she huddled with her staff to discuss the latest update that would necessitate a change to their procedures, the equipment used and more. In addition, Nevin also provided her staff with emotional support and a sense of security in a rapidly changing situation.
As the pandemic unfolded, Sharp implemented new protocols for patient care, which included fewer in-room patient visits. “We were told to try to limit the amount of time that you are in there, especially because we were not sure how limited we were going to be with protective equipment,” Nevin explains. “We had cross monitors who would walk up and down the hall to check in before you went into a room to make sure that you have your gown and you are putting your gloves on correctly and your goggles and mask.”
Honoring the strict procedures, adapting to constant changes, and learning about a new disease proved challenging. “It was tricky in the beginning because we just weren’t really sure what we were looking for as far as signs and symptoms,” says Nevin. “What we learned pretty quickly was that some of these patients would downward spiral super quickly.”
During COVID-19, with many hospitals restricting visitors, nurses stepped in as family. “People don’t want to be in the hospital when they are all by themselves,” she explains. “It’s hard for our patients, and it’s hard for the staff too because you are playing a double role there.”
COVID-19 facilitated an uptick in gratitude for frontline healthcare workers and their sacrifices. “It was very uplifting how much support we got from the community,” Nevin shares. “All of the different restaurants that would donate food to the hospital workers, that was the coolest thing. We were getting free meals three times a day. People were donating all sorts of things like water bottles, scrubs, coffee. … That really helped uplift the staff quite a bit, feeling that appreciation.”
After three months of working on the COVID-19 floor, the permanent staff took over and Nevin repositioned to the Command Center, where she undertook a behind-the-scenes role in lieu of direct patient care. Nevin took part in conference calls with the CDC, the state and the CEOs of all Sharp hospitals to gain a broad understanding of the situation in the community, subsequently disseminating the information to the hospital, assessing if any changes needed to be made to policies in place, and tracking all patients admitted. The Command Center served as a resource for the entire hospital and a source of answers as the ever-changing nature of the pandemic progressed.
For Nevin, service-oriented work has always been in her blood. At LJCDS, Nevin served on the Community Service Board and TRACE (Teens Respond to AIDS with Care and Education).
“My desire to be supportive of my community and my philanthropic nature to help others and do unto others as I would want done unto myself, a lot of that developed from my participation with community service,” she explains. “I really developed a passion for all of that through La Jolla Country Day School. That absolutely was part of what shaped me wanting to become a nurse. I think that those values definitely were shaped by La Jolla Country Day because we were raised with the notion that we were so fortunate that we were able to go to a great school and came from loving homes, and how could we help those in our community who needed more help.”