As an emergency physician, Alister Martin, MD, MPP, MGH Emergency Medicine, learned countless lessons working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elizabeth Ruzzo has learned one key lesson throughout the coronavirus pandemic: When it comes to understanding COVID-19, change is the only constant. As a senior Human Resources business partner at Massachusetts General Hospital, Ruzzo was charged with leading the hospital labor pool’s vent listener program, created when hospital floors and units were converted into critical care floors to care for acute COVID-19 patients.
“Mass General brought in ventilators to help support these patients, but unlike established intensive care units, the ventilators were not connected to a centralized monitoring system where a nurse would be able to hear the alarm from a remote location,” says Ruzzo. “We redeployed folks as ‘listeners’ who provided vital assistance to nursing staff to help monitor these ventilators.”
Vent listeners closely monitor and listen for a ventilator alarm, and immediately report it to the nursing staff. This frees nursing staff to attend to other critical care needs of COVID-19 patients without fear of missing a crucial alarm.
“There are no daily tasks during this new normal; each day is different,” Ruzzo says. “We have had to react to the many changes that are going on around us and help those we support navigate through those changes.”
The consistency of change has also impacted Ruzzo’s vocabulary. “I have learned to say, ‘As of right now,’ when answering questions about redeployment because we’ve had to figure out things as we went along, reconfiguring processes to meet changing labor pool demands.”
At the peak of the program, Ruzzo helped oversee the deployment of 66 vent listeners a day, ensuring there was coverage every hour of every day. With more ventilators being incorporated into the central monitoring system, coupled with an easing of patient volumes, the program now oversees the deployment of 15 listeners per day.
While there are some similarities in her pre-pandemic role supporting the HR needs of the hospital, Ruzzo says, “I am so proud to be a part of such a great organization as Mass General. In these trying times, I’ve witnessed everyone come together to accomplish the same goal—making a difference in people’s lives. It’s so rewarding to know we’re not only helping our patients, but each other and those in our communities.”
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