Deborah White, BSN, RN-BC, CIC

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Title: Infection Preventionist

Company/Organization: Aurora SLMC

First Certified: November 2018

We began this Pandemic running drills with our hospital leaders.  Our CMO allowed IP to lead the drills on behalf of our Emergency Management Committee.  We used a standardized drill audit tool to be performed in all inpatient and outpatient departments.  IP supported each department by meeting with them in groups and individually.  At the time, we were speaking of theoretical patients with viral respiratory symptoms.  Shortly after the drills were completed, with a couple weeks, we began seeing our first patients.

Much energy was focused on proper assessment and triage of patients and we set up a split ED to accommodate this.

A large white tent was set up in front of the hospital’s main entrance in order to triage outside.

A testing trailer was constructed across the street from the hospital on Oklahoma avenue in the parking lot.

Another trailer – a morgue freezer, was quietly delivered to the back of the hospital.

The early months were exhausting both emotionally and mentally with questions and meetings and more questions and lots and lots of fear.

I made it my mission to support my COVID centric units through my presence on the unit day in and day out to be their resource and support their work.  Somedays it was by giving information. I would share the latest update from CDC and our System ID/IP group that affected their work.  Other days, it included stocking gowns, gloves, disinfecting wipes and goggles.  Most days it was listening to the fear and anxiety of staff and offering my calm presence and kindness.  “We will get through this – together”.  “You are doing such a great job”.  “I’m so thankful for the work you are doing with these patients”.

I began learning all the staff by name and they quickly all learned mine. 

I really felt a part of the units and if this Pandemic has taught me one thing, it is this – presence is everything. 

I loved being an IP pre-Pandemic, but I love the work I do even more so now. I know the impact of the work we do as IPs, not just individually, but I can clearly see globally how our most basic prevention standards can save lives and reduce disease burden. 

My heart breaks for the lives lost, and the suffering COVID has created. 

But I keep going on, keep moving forward, keep working to create a safer World.