One day on the T7 unit never looks the same as the last. The team at BC Children's Hospital cares for patients who need everything from a kidney transplant to treatment for an eating disorder, all while maintaining an exemplary level of family-centered care.
Some would say T7 is the “yes” unit. Their staff members often face difficult situations and regularly go beyond what’s required in their job descriptions. Regardless, they make it work—driven by a passion for providing the best care for every patient and family every day.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, T7 was truly put to the test when they were tasked with caring for COVID-19 positive children across the province. They called the new section of their unit the “Pandemic Pod” (affectionately termed the “Panda Pod”). Multiple teams worked together to ensure the pod met standards, despite multiple stressors.
“The ‘Panda Pod’ was isolating, with minimal nursing staff, limited access to resources, and overall reduced-foot traffic,” says Kelsey McCormick, registered nurse, T7 unit. However, the staff took the changes in practice in stride, with minimal complaints and positive role modelling. This truly illustrates how they approach the challenges that come their way.
“T7 takes on anything and will do anything. Most specialized units have strict criteria for patients received, but we respond to everything! The joy of general medicine is how it keeps us on our toes and gives us the opportunity to solve difficult problems,” says Dr. Tom McLaughlin, general pediatrician, Inpatient Units, Department of Pediatrics.
The T7 unit is extensive in its scope. With over 26 different specialties, the unit is comprised of social workers, therapists, pharmacists, nurses, physicians, physiotherapists, dieticians, unit clerks, psychologists, occupational therapists, spiritual care providers and more.
Each day the unit participates in rounds, which gives staff the chance to interact, problem solve and make decisions. Additionally, they host an inter-disciplinary meeting once a week for learning and collaboration purposes.
“I have worked in health care for 30+ years and I have never worked with this many people who are genuinely passionate about the children and families they care for,” says Flavia Mandic, program manager, Inpatient Units.
“We come across devastating situations on this unit, yet the comradery among staff keeps spirits uplifted so that everyone can provide the best care possible,” says Flavia.
There are very few holidays that the unit is able to celebrate with each other, patients and families, but Halloween is one of them. You could say they go all out! This is just one example of how T7 promotes team unity.
During the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the T7 unit started seeing a rise in patients. In order to adapt, they transformed the unit into one that could safely care for children, families and staff.
The process involved isolating part of the unit (a.k.a. the “Panda Pod”) so that it could be dedicated to COVID-19 positive patients, their families and the staff providing their care. In order to keep the space from seeing outside traffic, an overflow milk storage room and a physician office were moved to a different location, and a meeting room became a donning and doffing station for staff.
Flavia (only slightly) jokes that, “We were building an airplane while we were flying it. Our team had to learn on the go and we needed to be flexible. We did our best with the evidence that was provided and had to be kind to ourselves since it was possible that everything could change tomorrow.”
Dr. McLaughlin remarks, “Throughout the pandemic, there were a series of little moments where a need would be identified and we would get together in a huddle to come up with a plan on the spot. That pace of change and innovation was remarkable! Because of the ways we were able to so quickly respond to the pandemic, I believe people have found a new energy to tackle things non-pandemic related (i.e., mental health and substance use issues as of late). Our staff have seen what they are capable of and it is exciting.”
As the team adjusted their daily practices, they recognized a specific risk for infection during the donning or doffing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In response, they developed a PPE audit tool, which involved two staff members assessing one another during the donning and doffing of PPE. A few of their findings revealed that people were less proficient in removing PPE, remembering to use goggles and using hand sanitizer.
With this knowledge, the unit could make modifications to their practices. In the case of hand sanitizer, they learned that the dispensers were not in the right location. Once they were moved to a more appropriate place, compliance increased.
“These small details are only seen if the time is taken to observe them. The auditing tool helped us recognize our challenges with PPE compliance and improved our confidence. We did not have a single outbreak on this unit and there were no cases caused by cross contamination from patient to patient, patient to staff, or family to family,” says Flavia.
With the success of the auditing tool on T7, the process was implemented across the BC Children’s campus. This is just one example, among many, of how the innovation of the T7 unit stretches beyond their four walls. They see the value in positive change and cultivating partnerships in order to provide the best patient care.
“The T7 staff have always been a collaborative group. They are respectful of each other’s roles and readily engaging each other’s services to meet each family’s needs. As allied health members, our role in Child Life changed during the pandemic but our fellow T7 staff supported us by adjusting expectations, being patient, and knowing exactly when to call us. Their support helped us to collaborate and plan care in order to reach as many families as possible,” says Rita Marchildon, certified Child Life specialist.
“This team embodies PHSA’s values with dedication, compassion, and perseverance. I have seen first hand how they constantly evolve to provide better care for their patients. From creating new speciality positions for nursing students to creating awareness to education opportunities—they look to learn and that is what makes them so nimble and forward-thinking,” says Dr. Pei-Yoong Lam, pediatrician, Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program.
“The T7 team is deeply compassionate and epitomises patient centred care. They are also equally committed to multidisciplinary teamwork and respect and enjoy the complexities of working together,” says Dr. Elizabeth Stanfor, RPsych, head of psychology.
Congratulations to all on T7!
When the T7 unit discovered they had received a PHSA+ Award as a team, they were so thrilled that they cut up yellow stars with each team members name to post on the whiteboard in their unit.
“We were hit hard with the pandemic,” says Flavia, “and it has been a mentally, emotionally and physically tough year. Being recognized by the organization lets all of us know we are 'seen' and that means so much!”
Needless to say, the T7 unit is more than worthy of this PHSA+ recognition and surely, there are dozens of others who could speak to the positive impact their team has made! Thank you to all of the T7 staff members and may we all keep a keen eye out for what they may tackle next.
About the PHSA+ Awards program
The PHSA+ Awards are part of an internal recognition program that celebrates teams and individuals who bring our PHSA values to life in the workplace. They go above and beyond to serve patients and families across B.C. Read about the other PHSA+ award recipients for 2021.