“The Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) is like a puzzle—it wouldn’t be complete without all the different roles working together toward a common goal,” says Olivia Stack, critical care technician (CCT) on Blake 7 at Massachusetts General Hospital. “In addition to fellow CCTs, we have a multitude of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, operation associates and unit service associates. The best way I can describe my role as a CCT is being the right hand to our nurses. If they need a supply, I’ll find it. I try to think one step ahead to do anything that will make their lives easier.”
Upon joining Mass General in May 2019, Stack learned the ropes of her role and settled into a routine. She helps stock rooms, performs phlebotomy lab draws and EKGs, assists in the admission and discharge of patients, helps bring patients to scans and MRIs, feeds and bathes patients and assists in emergencies. Once the pandemic hit, however, this routine changed.
“Our unit was one of the first ICUs to accept COVID-19 patients, and because everything was happening so fast we didn’t necessarily have established guidelines for how to care for these patients while still protecting ourselves,” says Stack. “As new policies emerged, my role grew to one that assisted with and kept everyone up to date in terms of personal protective equipment, precautions and visiting policies.”
COVID-19 also posed a challenge in connecting with patients. “Most of the patients on our floor are on ventilators, so we typically try to learn little things about them from talking to the families and friends who visit,” says Stack. “Because of visiting restrictions in the hospital, though, we didn’t have these in-person interactions, so I would FaceTime with patient families to help fill out ‘get to know me’ posters we hung outside each patient’s room. This enabled all MICU staff to learn about patients, including their hobbies, favorite movies, television shows, foods and things that cheer them up. We also worked with families to get as many pictures of the patients and their loved ones as possible, which were then used to decorate the walls of their rooms.”
Most of the patients on our floor are on ventilators, so we try to learn little things from talking to the families and friends who visit about who they are as a person. Because of visiting restrictions in the hospital, we didn’t have these in-person interactions, so I would FaceTime with patient families and help to fill out ‘get to know me’ posters we hung outside each patient’s room.
Blake 7 critical care technician, Mass General
Stack recalls being present on the unit on the day it accepted its first COVID-19 patient. “Everyone was anxious, because we didn't know what to expect. Our resource nurse called us into a huddle in an attempt to answer questions and soothe everyone's nerves. She explained we were dealing with uncharted waters, but, if we all stick together and work together, we will get through this together,” says Stack. “Every patient we transferred to a different floor because they no longer required ICU care brought tears to my eyes. It's an indescribable feeling.”
And while the days are still full of uncertainty, Stack says everyone continues to stick together every step of the way. “I think that really is a true testament to what the MICU is,” she says.