The expressions of support for Santa Barbara’s frontline COVID-19 workers continued this week with a flyover of four National Guard jets and the brilliant blue lighting of landmarks throughout the city. Our doctors and nurses are literally putting their lives on the line; so far, 66 of them have tested positive for the virus. Here, we introduce one of Sansum Clinic’s superstars ― Mimosa Bitters, an Urgent Care Nurse Manager who created and continues to run the clinic’s car-based testing program.
When did you create the car-based testing program? How many people have you tested so far?
We were able to get the program up and running on March 17. In the past seven weeks, we have tested 829 patients, and 30 patients have tested positive. In addition to testing symptomatic patients, we are also now testing asymptomatic patients who are scheduled for essential, non-emergent surgery. (For these patients, the testing happens within five days of their scheduled procedure.) As a result, we have increased the number of patients tested each day and are now testing approximately 40 patients per day.
What are some of the challenges of car testing? How have you and your team adapted to them?
The biggest challenge is communicating with the patients in their cars while trying to maintain safe distancing. The workflow we established is we have the patient call our mobile phone in the trailer, we register and check them in, and then the entire process is explained to them before they come up to the registered nurse in the testing area. This way, the time spent face-to-face with the patient is less than two minutes, which greatly minimizes potential exposure to the registered and the patient.
What strategies do you use to keep your staff calm and positive during all this craziness?
I have been taking LinkedIn Learning courses in the evenings and listening to podcasts in the mornings to not only help me stay calm and be able to cope with this added stress, but also to help me learn how to best support the team. The changes to guidelines and recommendations occur so quickly, sometimes hourly, so I work hard to stay as up to date as possible so that when the staff have questions, I can answer them confidently. I believe that constant communication, transparency, and humor are incredibly important, especially in times like these.
How are staff members protecting themselves?
When all of this first began, one of the first things the staff did was research how to properly don and doff PPE, and then practice it with each other until they felt confident they were doing it correctly. Sansum is also providing scrubs from the Surgery Center so that the Urgent Care staff can avoid contaminating their own clothing.
How have the last couple of months affected your team? Are you just exhausted?
The Urgent Care team has been greatly affected by this pandemic, but surprisingly, it has brought them closer together. There has always been a strong sense of camaraderie in Urgent Care; the staff will tell you their coworkers are like extended family. But this has cemented their relationships in a way that I wouldn’t have expected. For the most part, they are energized by helping their community, and I couldn’t be prouder to manage this team.
What are some of the positive or uplifting things you’ve seen during all this?
I have been absolutely blown away by all the people and organizations around town that have reached out to donate items to our team. We have received handmade hair covers, N95 masks, donuts, full lunches, orchids, and even hand sanitizer from the community, which has made the staff feel appreciated and fulfilled in their work. Who can ask for more than that?
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