Germ Warfare: Fighting COVID on All Fronts
July 15, 2021
On December 17, 2020, Paula Bolton, MS, CNP, ANP-BC, director of Infection Control, received McLean’s first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This signaled the beginning of the end of a very long year that saw Bolton and her colleagues in Infection Control and Internal Medicine working to protect the hospital’s patients and staff from COVID-19.
With days blending into one another and “normal” work hours becoming a distant memory, Bolton and her Infection Control partner, Sophie S. Forte, MS, ANP-BC, WHNP-BC, have often found themselves working around the clock. “Calls at 3am from a clinician on a unit who was concerned about something related to COVID became routine this past year,” said Bolton, who left countless hot meals on the dinner table while attending to yet another emergency.
“Saying this past year was challenging doesn’t even scratch the surface, but I am extremely proud of every one of my colleagues—both those on-site and those who have had to work remotely—for everything they have done to keep our patients and one another safe during the pandemic,” said Bolton, who has overseen Infection Control for more than 20 years, in addition to being the program director for McLean’s Psychiatric Neurotherapeutics Program.
“It was and continues to be a hospital-wide effort, with every part of our community contributing to our successful battle against this virus.”
Though not everyone could be on campus during COVID, their contributions were widely felt. Thanks to the hospital Board of Trustees and donors who funded the COVID-19 Support Fund, McLean’s frontline staff received meals, pick-me-up snacks, and wellness packages to help them through the darkest days of the pandemic.
While Bolton was one of the most visible McLean responders to the pandemic, since March and for the foreseeable future, the hospital’s Incident Command team, composed of administrators, clinicians, and researchers, have worked daily to support Bolton’s efforts to maintain a safe environment for everyone on McLean’s campuses.
Adapting Quickly and Safely
“Throughout the pandemic, we have been ahead of the curve, and as a result, we have kept the prevalence rate of COVID on our campuses to a minimum,” said Joseph Gold, MD, chief medical officer and co-incident commander for the COVID-19 response. He noted that McLean did not plan to treat patients with active symptomatic COVID infection.
However, plans were made to identify patients quickly and isolate them as necessary. If an individual began to exhibit symptoms of the virus, they were placed in a designated isolation room where they were closely monitored by the specially trained unit nursing staff and the hospital’s Infection Control and Internal Medicine teams while they awaited COVID test results.
“If a person tested positive, we transferred them to a medical hospital within Mass General Brigham that is more equipped to manage the physical challenges that often accompany COVID. This system worked extraordinarily well to the benefit of our patients and our staff.”