Inside the ICU During COVID


Shelli Smith (second from the right) and her coworkers smiling big for the camera. Fully suited in their PPE (personal protective equipment) they are working hard for the better of our community. (Photo used by permission of Shelli Smith)

Shelli Smith, a registered nurse who works in the ICU unit at The N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Memorial, deserves the name “Hospital Hero” for all the dedication and compassion she puts into her work to save lives.    

At the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, safety at hospitals and for ICU nurses became the utmost priority, so many rules and procedures increased and changed. 

As nurses in the ICU, it is important to back up one another. “Addressing patient alarms, hanging drips, and assisting with bedside procedures” are some of the tasks Shelli said, via text, that she does. 

Back in April, The MICU (Medicine Intensive Care Unit) created a new system in which each patient received two nurses. One nurse being a “dirty” nurse and the other a “clean” nurse. The “dirty” nurse cares for the patient in the quarantine area, while the “clean” nurse hands them meds and supplies.  

This plan is very effective. “[It} doesn’t burn out and overwhelm the staff,” said Smith. 

However, it doubled the number of nurses needed in the MICU because every patient assignment required two nurses. Smith said she has to “check her phone before every shift” because she gets floated around to different units for the demand of coverage.

With a zero visitor policy instituted back in April, Smith said she becomes a “substitute family member as much as possible”. Although the no visitor policy “is absolutely necessary, no one can replace a parent, mate, or loved one at a bedside” 

With the new COVID rules, the number of people entering and exiting the room is now at a bare minimum. Not only does this affect the patient, but at times it can create a “lonely feeling” for the nurse’s Smith said; she normally works with colleagues in the room. 

At the end of the day, Smith said COVID19 has made her a “stronger and more fearless nurse”. Shelli Smith is an inspiration to our community and a hero to the critically ill. Her efforts do not go overlooked.


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