Access Now: AORN COVID-19 Clinical Support

Archive February 2021 XXII, No. 2

COVID Diary: Love, Loss and Hope

Surgery centers far from the war against COVID-19 have stories to tell.

Beth Austin

Beth Austin, BS, RN


AUA Surgical Center
TIGHT-KNIT GROUP The AUA Surgical Center staff met the challenges of 2020 with determination and smiles.

Life in our small ASC is different from most hospitals in our area. We've traded responding to emergency codes in ICUs for the pleasure of spending holidays with loved ones, and the hustle and bustle of ERs for focused one-on-one care. We're a small enough group that our surgeons know our stories, our bosses know our concerns and our patients know our names. We love it here, and most days feel luckier than other healthcare providers.

Our experiences aren't like the ones you see during social media scrolls that include posts of brave nurses donned in full PPE treating seas of patients on death's dark doorstep. Yet COVID-19 has forever changed our center, and brought extreme challenges that were often difficult to meet.

We don't have HR specialists or multidisciplinary committees instructing us on what we can and cannot do. Our COVID-19 information comes from Google research that starts from the CDC and filters down through various governing bodies and ASC message boards. At times, the ever-changing COVID-19 recommendations feel overwhelming. CDC recommendations become state mandates that become city mandates that are then labeled and enforced as "strongly recommended." We have to do our homework, write our policies and perpetually stay up to date.

Despite our city's presence on lists of most highly infected areas in the nation, a significant segment of our community sees masking as a violation of their civil rights. This has made what had traditionally been a very happy and easy-going environment at our center a more confrontational and stressful one. We've strictly enforced our mask-wearing policy since March. To alleviate some of the patient pushback, we've posted multiple signs that are easy to read, fun in their approach and clear in our expectation that a mask must be worn — and worn correctly — in our facility. We're also clear in our expectations during pre-op calls and while screening patients before they enter our facility. Yet, mask-wearing is an ongoing issue that we have to police.

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