The COVID-19 pandemic has taught Acting District Director Nursing and Midwifery Jenny Neilsen a number of tasks she never thought she would have to learn – from setting up a virtual hospital to turning around a pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic in 36 hours.
Jenny and her team have been at the forefront of NSLHD’s response to the virus, setting up the virtual hospital back in March when the first cases of COVID-19 hit Australian shores.
“Doctors and nurses run the virtual hospital – which is designed for those in our community who have tested positive for COVID – and involves our negative hotline and welfare checks,” Jenny said.
“Some people may get a daily check via phone, others a few times a week, while some may need a welfare check that requires a nurse to visit them at home.”
There is a roving team that visits people in the community who may need bloods taken or a repeat swab.
In some cases, people have been taken to hospital following these checks depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The virtual hospital also covers residential aged care across Northern Sydney, which includes 110 nursing homes.
Another major part of the team’s job is setting up the pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics, which have included sites at Chatswood, Berowra and Manly.
“We work closely with the Public Health Unit which identifies hot spots in our district and then we find a suitable venue to house the testing clinics,” she said.
“We learnt a lot from the Manly pop-up clinic, for example, in terms of how you flow people.”
Jenny said the flow of the clinic is pivotal to ensuring everything runs smoothly – with every staff member needing to be clear on what their role is.
While the Manly clinic took around 3000 swabs in the three weeks it was open – and was the most sought after place for testing in the district – the team managed to perfect the flow so people moved from the front desk to the swab and out the door in under nine minutes.
Jenny’s team runs the clinics at Brookvale and Hillview Community Health Centres, and Hornsby and Royal North Shore hospitals which collectively average 700-800 swabs per day.
The team has also recently opened a pop-up testing clinic at Pennant Hills Community Health Centre.
The team will take over the remaining COVID-19 testing clinics at Mona Vale and Ryde hospitals to ensure one governance structure is in place.
Jenny said her biggest challenge was ensuring there was enough staff to cover the district’s clinics and virtual hospital, and support Sydney LHD with the airport.
But she couldn’t speak more highly of the team which is always willing to put up its hand and help out.
“They are the real heroes behind this pandemic – all they do is care for people and that makes me proud,” she said.
“I’ve got the best bunch of nurses and admin going – they are a great team, always with a smile on their faces.”