COVID-19 through a nurse manager’s lens

Nathalee Grue in full PPE
Nathalee Grue, MSN, RN, CCRN, joined UI Health Care nearly 10 years ago. A nurse manager in the Surgical and Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (SNICU), she’s proud of how her team has adapted during this pandemic.

During the first weeks of caring for COVID-19 patients in the Surgical and Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (SNICU), nurse manager Nathalee Grue, MSN, RN, CCRN, felt her world shift—sometimes multiple times a day.

As she and her team worked to care for patients, the information they received changed often. There were frequent meetings with experts and updates regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) due to global shortages. They had to find ways to maximize and conserve PPE while focusing on safety.

The fluidity of the situation could have been destabilizing, but Grue and her team adapted.

“It was all hands on deck,” Grue says of the early days of the pandemic. “Our entire leadership team stepped up to make sure that team members had the equipment they needed and the training they needed, and that they had the right staffing. There was a lot of multi-disciplinary teamwork.”

A source of calm

The SNICU was one of the first intensive care units to take on COVID-19 patients, and the seriousness of this pandemic weighed heavily on staff. Grue made it a priority to communicate with her team, frequently sharing information about PPE and information from the special pathogens unit.

“Plans were rolled out and then often changed,” says Grue. “Our leadership team had face-to-face meetings with the nursing staff every day, sometimes multiple times a day. They tried to keep our staff nurses, assistants, and clerks up to date on the plan. There was a lot of transparency, which was reassuring.”

That reassurance was helpful in calming nervous employees who were worried about the unknowns around COVID-19. There was also a lot of false information circulating in the news media about PPE, Grue says, and that contributed to staff anxiety.

“Working in the SNICU is already a stressful situation due to the type of patients we care for,” says Grue. “But when we started to get COVID-19 patients, everyone felt the stress.”

Pulling together

And yet, even with all of their challenges, nurses stepped up and volunteered to change a shift, work longer hours, or take on new tasks. The courage and strength of her colleagues has resulted in another shift for Grue.

It’s given her hope.

“We’ve always had a sense of camaraderie, but it has definitely intensified,” she says. “I’ve seen people pull together. The thinking is ‘we’re all in this together,’ and it’s an incredible feeling to know that an entire institution is working together in this moment.”

Nathalee Grue was honored with a 2020 American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Circle of Excellence Award, which recognizes and showcases excellent outcomes of individuals in caring for high acuity and critically ill patients.

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