Marcus Norrgård is an intensive care nurse. In 2020, he witnessed at first hand how intensive care units augmented their knowledge and expertise in how to care for coronavirus patients.

In spring 2020, nurses in intensive care units at HUS were faced with a steep increase in their workload as coronavirus-infected patients developed a severe form of the COVID-19 disease, requiring intensive care.

Training new personnel

As the coronavirus continued to spread, more hands on deck were needed in intensive care. Additional resources were obtained for instance by retraining operating room nurses for intensive care. Providing the required induction training was a huge effort on the part of the regular nursing staff in intensive care, but the end result was that intensive care units got the additional personnel that they needed. The new recruits joined the ranks of seasoned professionals in caring for coronavirus patients.

In the spring, the Surgical Hospital was converted into a dedicated coronavirus hospital, and an intensive care unit solely for coronavirus patients was set up in the surgery unit there. Recovery rooms at Jorvi Hospital were also converted for intensive care. For many nurses, both their job description and their workplace environment changed rapidly. Coronavirus patients were also admitted to intermediate care units at Peijas and Hyvinkää Hospitals.

Growing confidence

In the spring, many of the nursing staff dealing with coronavirus patients were considerably stressed about whether their personal protective equipment would give sufficient protection against the disease.

“Gradually, putting on and taking off the PPE becomes a routine procedure, and at the same time you became more confident that you can protect yourself against infection,” says Norrgård.

Increased knowledge

Patients with a severe form of COVID-19 are just one patient group among many requiring intensive care. The purpose of intensive care is to sustain vital functions.

In intensive care units, coronavirus patients are treated as any other patient with severe respiratory failure. Often patients are kept proning, or lying on their stomach, because this helps gas exchange in the lungs.

“At first, we did not have a feel for the disease and for instance for how patients’ vitals with regard to gas exchange behaved. We’ve learned a lot in the past year and now have a pretty good idea of how this disease affects the human body,” says Norrgård.