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Pandemic complicates patient care procedures

A patient lies in a bed in a hospital room.
A patient lies in a bed in a hospital room.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 6:14 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - From visitor policies to extensive personal protective equipment requirements, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way health care providers care for patients.

“The entire way that we care for patients has really shifted because of the COVID pandemic, to protect the patient, to protect the family and loved ones, and to protect the health care, and it is challenging, it takes a lot more time and a lot more resources,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said in an ECHO call with reporters Thursday.

Zink says that nearly every step of the process of caring for a COVID-positive patient takes more time, starting with putting on and removing personal protective equipment.

“That’s really the highest time of risk for exposure, is when you’re taking your gear on and off. And so if you’re taking care of a COVID-positive patient, essentially what you have to do is put all this gear on, which one is really hot and really loud and it’s hard to hear anything, and then you’re basically stuck in that room and you can’t go in and out of that room without this really extended process,” Zink said. “And so it becomes really challenging to say you’ve got a really sick patient and you need more medication, or you need someone else to do an X-ray, or you need something else. You can’t just go out like you normally would and be like, ‘Hey, can we get an X-ray in this room,’ or ‘I need someone else to draw blood,’ or ‘I need some more meds for this.’ So you really have to kind of plan ahead much more beforehand, have everything in the rooms.”

Restrictions on family visitation not only make hospital stays more challenging for patients and their loved ones, but also puts more responsibilities on nurses, Zink said.

“It’s hard because you don’t want to expose other family members or other people,” Zink said. “So pre-COVID, we had a lot more family in to help. So if you had someone who you need to leave for a few minutes, you could have their family or loved one by their side, but right now, we don’t want their family to get sick as well. So the nurses are having to be family and caregivers and nursing all at the same time, and doing it in a ton more gear and really having to change their entire practices.”

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