Mercy Nurse: Covid was just another challenge that we had to step up to

IRENE HALPIN LONG talks to Anne O’Keeffe, an advanced Nurse Practitioner in the Emergency Department of the Mercy University Hospital, about the challenges thrown up by Covid in the busy city hospital
Mercy Nurse: Covid was just another challenge that we had to step up to

Anne O’ Keeffe is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who works in the Emergency Department of the Mercy University Hospital,

THE Covid-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on healthcare staff around the country.

Staff in Irish hospitals have risen to this challenge with professionalism and bravery.

Anne O’Keeffe is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who works in the Emergency Department of the Mercy University Hospital, Cork.

Originally from Cloghroe. Anne completed her general nurse training in the UK. She worked in remote areas of Australia before returning to Ireland to continue her nursing career in January, 2000. Since returning, she has registered as a Nurse Prescriber and completed a Masters’ Degree (advanced practice).

Anne explained her role as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) in the Emergency Department. She said: “The role lends itself to streaming patients promptly from arrival to discharge.

“My focus during the pandemic was on non-Covid patients. My colleague and I independently assess, treat, diagnose and discharge patients presenting with injuries, skin infections, head and facial trauma and joint pain.”

The benefits of having one practitioner handling cases improves the quality of care provided and ensures a better nurse patient relationship. This process is especially useful when dealing with young children who are often in pain or scared and anxious when they arrive in the Emergency Department.

The onset of the Covid-19 crisis in March this year meant that staff at the Mercy needed to act quickly to ensure adequate policies and procedures were quickly established to manage patient flow.

Anne said: “In the beginning, because little was known about the virus, there were obviously some concerns in terms of the environment and preparing the hospital for a potential influx of very sick Covid-related cases.

“We faced a major challenge — how we were going to manage two different streams of patients. But we have a brilliant multi-disciplinary team here in the Mercy. We all worked together. Lunchtime meetings ensured we were all singing ‘off the same hymn sheet’. The support and the guidance given by the infection control team here in the Mercy was superb. The information they provided was very clear and concise. That was very reassuring to staff.”

Feeling supported in the workplace helped Anne and her colleagues carry out their day-to-day roles as healthcare professionals.

She said: “Our concerns were heard and listened to by hospital management and the Director of Nursing. Patient safety is very much our priority, but staff safety is important too.

“If staff aren’t kept fit, well and healthy, the service provided to patients may be compromised. Continued vigilance in the use of PPE is essential in this regard.”

While the people of Cork were reducing social contacts, isolating at home and following the government guidelines to stay safe during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses like Anne donned their scrubs and headed into work.

Anne said: “Most of my career has been spent in Emergency nursing. Emergency Nurses are used to being on the frontline and we rise to the challenge of working in a high-pressure environment.

“Our processes and procedures ensure a controlled environment to safely manage whatever comes our way. That’s also how we approached the challenges surrounding Covid-19.”

Nursing is often described as a vocation, where the person embarking on a life in nursing practise is called to the occupation.

As well as being a vocation, nursing is a professional career which requires many hours of study and continuous professional development. As an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Anne has reached the highest qualification in terms of clinical nursing practise.

She said: “Many of the public are still not aware of the role. Advanced Nurse Practitioners offer an alternative treatment provider to the traditional medical model for certain patients.

“The nursing profession has changed significantly over the past 20 years. I chose emergency nursing because I like a challenge. As an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, I enjoy teasing out a diagnosis from the patient’s history and test results. Covid was just another challenge that we had to step up to.

“The clinical leadership, adaptive clinical decision-making skills and our intuition were key to care for and manage that patient group.

““I really enjoy my job. and I am proud to work as a member of a very caring and dynamic team in the Mercy Hospital.”

Anne is one of many healthcare professionals on the frontline during the pandemic. She has reflected on her experiences over the last nine months.

She said: “I hope my family and friends continue to stay safe. I hope that the Covid-19 vaccination will be safely and successfully rolled out inIreland in 2021. I think there will be positives from this pandemic. It has certainly given us all a chance to re-evaluate our priorities in life.”

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