To deal with the increasing numbers, our ICU expanded in every way possible. We flexed up to twenty-five beds—eight more than normal.
This meant we needed an extra forty-eight ICU nurses—and there weren’t an extra forty-eight ICU nurses hanging around just waiting to give us a hand!
But something amazing happened. When we opened our COVID pod—probably the scariest part of the hospital—nurses from other areas volunteered to come and help. Staff from theatre, anaesthetics, day surgery, short stay and hospital coordination all came. Colleagues who’d retired returned for a few months. Nursing mums on maternity leave came back to help. They all took themselves out of their comfort zones so we could get it done.
So did the RUSONs. RUSONs are registered undergraduate students of nursing. They can be employed by a health service while they are still doing their undergraduate nursing degree, after they’ve completed at least twelve months. It’s an employment model developed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch). It’s been gold for the students and gold for us. During COVID-19, it allowed us to get extra assistance when we needed it.
And our pod cleaners were brilliant too. They took full responsibility for the ICU pod and worked their butts off in full PPE to keep us safe.
I will be forever grateful to all these incredible colleagues. The teamwork I saw in that pod made me so proud to be part of the profession.