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Hiring Hoosiers: Nurses cross-train to work pandemic frontlines

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 07:23:17-04

Hiring Hoosiers is an initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. Learn more about Hiring Hoosiers and see new stories weekdays at 6 a.m. on RTV6.

INDIANAPOLIS — While many Hoosiers are facing job losses, some companies are finding ways to keep their employees and working to serve the community’s immediate needs.

Ascension St. Vincent Hospitals are re-directing their nursing staff to step up to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brenda Christian is used to working with young patients at the Peyton Manning Surgery Center at Ascension St. Vincent. The pediatric nurse with two decades of experience is now on the frontlines, treating the hospital’s most critically ill COVID-19 patients.

“We have the PPE we need, we just need the people who want to come and do it,” Christian says. “We just need the people who can maybe step outside their comfort zone a little bit and realize they are going to be ok and it is a good opportunity to help other people to be ok.”

The experienced pediatric nurse is one of nearly 200 Indiana nurses who have taken part in a new training program Ascension St. Vincent created in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The course is designed to cross train progressive care, PACU, Endo, Cath Lab, and previous ICU nurses to support Critical Care during the COVID-19.

“The idea behind the critical care nurse training program is that we wanted to increase the available nurses that we have out there that were not performing roles that they had done previously,” said Marlene McIntyre, a Critical & Progressive Care Consultant at Ascension St. Vincent. “There really was a large amount of nurses that were displaced since we changed things you know that we could draw from.”

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The two-day program teaches Ascension St. Vincent nurses the skills needed to treat the priority patients coming through their hospital doors.

Some topics covered in class include, respiratory management of the acutely ill patient including ventilators and high flow oxygen therapy, pain & sedation, vasoactive medications and cardiac arrest.

“We really need nurses to step up into these rolls because there is such a lack of knowledge on somebody's part,” Christian said. “If you haven’t had the class you really don't know how to come and help in this area. Our setting is so different, our charting is different, our focus is different.”

The benefits of the cross-training program are two-fold: allowing nurses who many not be able to work a full schedule and to learn new skills to grow their grow their career.

“It is a great opportunity just to see what else is out there,” Christian said. “Really, I think there are a lot of opportunities in the future going forward for those nurses who learn new skills. The nurses might decide that they want to try something new.”

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Plus for nurses like Christian, with a heart and passion to help others, this is a call to action.

“It is really important for me to do it because as a nurse you want to show all the other nurses that you work with that this is okay, and we are going to get through this,” Christian said. “And as a mother and even as a daughter and a friend, I want to show my family and friends that this is what we do and this is how nurses help. It is really empowering to do it and it feels good.”

The class is taught by four critical care. Educators, all of whom have experience as Critical Care RNs. The cross-training nurses have come from all over Central Indiana and are available to work in critical care units across the state’s Ascension St. Vincent hospitals.

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