Cross Training Heroes to Care for COVID-19 Patients IN waukegan, Il

To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been a marathon would be an understatement. But all marathons start with a few steps. After learning about COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, Vista Health System leaders recognized a significant need for critical care RNs. After running a table-top drill and establishing a COVID-19 surge plan, Vista began planning for the staffing needs that were sure to result.

When the Governor declared a State of Emergency in Illinois on April 18, Vista opened its Incident Command Center and initiated mitigation interventions that included visitor restrictions, screening everyone entering the hospital, minimizing outpatient testing, and managing elective surgeries. Following CDC guidelines, the hospital staff quickly realized the need to cease much of its outpatient services, including elective surgeries.

The surgical services department stepped up immediately and offered help in multiple capacities. The Open Heart surgical team, a group of highly skilled RNs who normally manage the care of critical patients within the operative setting, and the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) team, who normally manage ventilated critical patients post-operatively, were immediately embedded in the ICU for intensive training with the ICU Clinical Educator and staff. Six days later, the staff found themselves in the midst of a critical care surge, doubling usual ICU patient volume almost overnight. And then tripling it.


Vista’s skilled surgical services staff began providing care for the extremely critical COVID-19 intubated patients immediately, along-side the dedicated ICU staff. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vista was managing 10-12 ICU patients per day. With the addition of the surgical services crew pitching in, Vista was able to manage 36 ICU patients, 90% of whom are intubated.

Vista’s surgical services department staff also assisted in other roles that weren’t even around prior to COVID-19. They took on responsibility for screening those at the hospital’s entrances; ensuring staff is afebrile prior to entering the facility. They also work as runners and sitters for the inpatient units and providing communication lifelines between patients and their families at home.

Currently, the staff is preparing for what might be a second surge and although much remains unknown for the future as we navigate this pandemic, the teamwork, flexibility, courage, and resilience displayed by Vista’s staff and providers across every department is evident, and nothing short of heroic.

Preparing for Battle.

Vista Medical Center East Received Illinois’ First Field Hospital in the fight against COVID-19

On April 17, Vista Medical Center East received the state’s first medical field unit deployment by the International Medical Corps. The units were erected in a few hours by members of the International Medical Corps and Vista’s Engineering Department.

Vista Medical Center East used this fully equipped emergency medical field unit to expand triage capabilities, improve patient flow and keep COVID-19 patients separated from other patients. These field tents are self-contained and fully equipped with sinks, power, lighting, HVAC units, beds, and supplies. They are weather-resistant and can withstand sustained winds of up to 80 mph. International Medical Corps also sent several clinical volunteers to help augment Vista’s staff and alleviate potential workforce strain due to increased demands and patient volumes.