Messages from Inside PRHC

Meet Melissa, a nurse on the front line at PRHC's NICU

My name is Melissa Saliga (photo at left by Mary Zita Payne). I have worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Peterborough Regional Health Centre since 2017. I became a Registered Nurse in 2012 and I’ve always worked in either a NICU or Pediatric Unit.

I love my job. Working with babies and their families gives me a sense of purpose, passion, and satisfaction that nothing else matches. I am always trying to learn more and stay ahead of the curve in this ever growing, ever changing area of nursing. One thing that has been particularly hard to stay ahead of the curve on has been the coronavirus and COVID-19.

As a NICU nurse, I typically work with babies who are premature, have low birth weight, are medically compromised, or any combination of the above. Some babies I only meet briefly at the time of their birth, others I admit and care for in the NICU for days or even weeks prior to discharging them. I often work with babies that require transfer to a tertiary care centre for care before they can return here for care closer to home.

COVID-19 has changed the way we do our jobs on a daily basis. Our infection control policies and procedures have been greatly intensified. The nurses and staff have become even more passionate about keeping our tiny charges and their families safe. We also now have the added responsibility of protecting one baby from another within the NICU.

The delivery and possible need for resuscitation of a baby born to a COVID-19 positive or COVID-19 suspected mother presents new and unique challenges to us as a care team.The personal protective equipment (PPE) we wear to attend deliveries has also changed, as has how we utilize staff at deliveries. But we’re rising to these challenges and expanding our knowledge and skills every day.

One of the most difficult changes has been the updating of our visiting policy to only permit parents to visit, and separately. Visiting parents are screened for potential illness and must wear a mask at all times while in the NICU, and unfortunately, our NICU Care-By-Parent Rooms have been closed until further notice.

Because of these changes, parents are relying on phone and video calls, and are sending lots of photos and videos to help keep their families connected. We also offer virtual visiting as supported by the hospital, and the nurses and doctors are giving more telephone updates than ever before.

Being a nurse during COVID-19 can be stressful. Sometimes I’m nervous that despite all our precautions, I’ll be exposed to the virus and unwittingly transmit it to others. And I’m unsure about the potential impact this virus could have on my physical, mental and emotional health. What keeps me focused is the knowledge that everyone – both here at PRHC and in the community – is working together and giving our best.

I want to thank everyone for their efforts – big and small. I want to thank the healthcare workers. I want to thank the grocers, truck drivers, police and firefighters, and other essential workers. I want to thank everyone who is staying home and maintaining social distancing. I want to thank the people who are going out of their way to be kind to healthcare workers right now: the people involved in the first responder parade, the people donating PPE and supplies, the people making masks and mask buddies, and anyone who is sending us happy thoughts, kind words or prayers.

Finally, I want to thank the donors who are supporting us and the care we give our patients through donations to the PRHC Foundation.

We are all in this together and we’ll get through it together (while staying apart)!

When you make a gift in support of the PRHC Foundation, your donation will directly support healthcare professionals like Melissa. If you can, donate today!


Meet Emily, a nurse on the front line at PRHC's COVID-19 Assessment Centre

We are proud to introduce you to Emily Hughes (photo at right by Mary Zita Payne). Emily has worked at PRHC for the last five years as a Registered Nurse in several capacities. Her current role is in PRHC’s Quality Department as a Program Support Partner. However, when the pandemic hit, Emily was redeployed to help support the COVID-19 Assessment Centre. We talked to Emily about how this pandemic has changed her life and her work.

Emily, please tell us a bit about yourself.

"I graduated 13 years ago from Trent University and have been working as a Registered Nurse ever since. I live my passion every day.

When not working, you can find me spending time with my wonderful family – a very supportive husband and two wild and incredibly lovable boys. We are a busy family, doing everything from racing horses to hitting the slopes on our skis and snowboards."

How has COVID-19 changed your role at PRHC?

"Ask any nurse at PRHC and they will tell you, there is a ‘before COVID-19’ and everything after the moment we became immersed in the pandemic. Before COVID-19, I was working on multiple projects across the hospital. My work was focussed on supporting our medical teams by looking for ways to improve processes and better support teams in delivering patient care. I enjoyed coffee breaks with my peers and face-to-face meetings with colleagues.

When COVID-19 hit, our hospital switched gears quickly to protect and continue to serve the community, while putting processes in place to keep us safe. It was an effort unlike anything I had ever seen in my career.  My projects were all put on hold, most face-to-face meetings were replaced by teleconferences and video calls, and we began wearing masks for the entirety of our shifts. I have to say though, it’s the little things I miss most, like a smile or a hug from a colleague. 

I was then redeployed to the PRHC COVID-19 Assessment Centre to help develop processes and to support staff as they learned their new roles. This was new to all of us. We have never seen a pandemic like this, we have never worked in a temporary location outside of our hospital, testing hundreds of scared patients for a potentially deadly virus. And our patients weren’t the only ones who were scared.

For the first time in my career I was afraid to go home and hug my children. My husband and I made the tough decision to move my kids to my in-laws’ house to protect them. Home was once our safe place, and it was a hard reality to accept that I was putting that at risk for my entire family.

Fast forward eight weeks, and I can share with you that we have developed a rhythm and a level of confidence in our routine at the Assessment Centre. We have embraced our new roles, we feel safe and protected from the virus with the safety protocols put in place, and although I would never say this feels normal, we are adapting as best we can to our new reality."

What does a day look like in the COVID-19 Assessment Centre?

"The day begins with a daily team huddle at 8:00am. Two clerical staff, three nurses, and two physicians gather while keeping a safe distance to review processes, address any concerns and questions, and set a positive tone for the day.

We gear up. My daily uniform consists of scrubs, protective gown, gloves, mask, cap and a visor. The clerical staff take their position behind a sheet of plexiglass ready to greet patients. One nurse takes the role at the door making sure all patients disinfect their hands and put on a mask, then they walk the patient through what is about to take place to help ease any anxieties. The other two nurses each partner up with a physician. They work together to assess each patient and perform the swab. 

Pre-scheduled appointments begin at 8:30am. We book two visits for every 10 minutes with our last visit booked for 7:20pm. Most days are filled with back-to-back appointments, so the days can be long. We are wearing full personal protective equipment for nearly 12 hours a day. It’s hot, hard to breathe and my face hurts. We have all had to remember that patients cannot see our faces. The simple ways we used to reassure patients have had to change. A comforting smile. A gentle reassuring tap on the arm. Instead we now focus on verbally reassuring patients and making sure they know they are safe. The days are long, but well worth any discomfort we feel to serve our patients and our community."

When this pandemic is behind us, what will you remember most about it?

"At the end of this I will remember what amazing things our hospital was able to do in such a short period of time. So many of us have been asked to do things we never thought we would, and we are going to come out of this even stronger than when we went in. As an organization and as a community, I think we are doing an amazing job."

Our community and donors have rallied to support our hospital and frontline staff - what would you like to say to them?

"I would like to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your ongoing support and your kindness to the staff at PRHC. It has not gone unnoticed and will always be remembered."

WATCH: Emily Hughes has a personal message of thanks for you…

When you make a gift in support of the PRHC Foundation, your donation will directly support healthcare professionals like Emily. If you can, donate today!


Donor-funded tools and scrubs are supporting and protecting PRHC patients and staff

For months, frontline workers at PRHC have been mobilizing for the fight against COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus. While healthcare providers are prepared, an urgent need still exists for the technology and supplies required to equip, support, and maintain the extraordinary changes undertaken at PRHC in a short period of time – changes that will help the hospital's doctors, nurses, and staff continue to save patients’ lives while protecting their own.

Responding to an urgent request for support from PRHC partners, the PRHC Foundation quickly established a COVID-19 response fund dedicated to the hospital’s most urgent pandemic-related priorities. What followed was a heartfelt outpouring of generosity from the community and you, our incredible donors.

We would like to thank everyone who has already supported the fund and PRHC’s COVID-19 response. Your generosity has already had an impact, funding urgent investments to support the hospital during this crisis, and ensuring PRHC’s doctors, nurses and healthcare support workers can continue to protect and care for patients with the same dedication and compassion they show day in and day out.

Because of your donations, the hospital was able to immediately purchase 15 iPads that are now in use at the Health Centre. The iPads make it possible for patients to connect with family members and friends who are unable to visit them in the hospital. They are also incredibly important for palliative patients who are using them to connect with loved ones for comfort, support and end of life decision making (photo above of the Palliative Care team with the iPads by Mary Zita Payne).

Your donations are also helping keep PRHC’s frontline healthcare providers and their patients safe by funding a crucial supply of additional scrubs, for those who need them, helping prevent the spread of infection.

Also, thanks to your generosity, PRHC now has new plexiglass screening stations in place at essential points throughout the hospital. The stations help PRHC conserve personal protective equipment and keep everyone – healthcare workers, patients and staff – safe in the Health Centre environment.

Stay tuned for more updates on your COVID-19 response fund investments. In the meantime, on behalf of everyone at PRHC, including patients and their loved ones, thank you so much for standing behind our hospital.


Thank you from former NICU family

"We’ll be forever grateful to the incredible staff in PRHC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the donors who funded the technology they used to save our son Beau nine years ago. That’s why we support the PRHC Foundation today. We want to give families like ours the best possible gift - the chance to take their little one home.”

Erin Marshall, PRHC Foundation Donor & Grateful Mom




"I'm so lucky..."

This year, Michelle Thornton will spend Christmas with her family. In the morning she and her husband will go over to their son’s house to watch the little ones open their gifts. Later, they’ll share a wonderful dinner with their daughter and other family members. But it doesn’t really matter how they spend the day. The important thing is being together.

They know it could have been a very different holiday. In 2014 a routine follow up at PRHC’s Breast Assessment Centre identified changes in Michelle’s right breast. A biopsy confirmed her radiologist’s suspicion. Michelle had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, shocked to hear the word cancer,” recalls Michelle. Fortunately, Michelle’s cancer was caught early. She had a mastectomy but needed no further treatment. Today, she is cancer-free, grateful to spend the holidays with her husband, two children and three grandchildren.

And she is grateful to you for helping make it possible. “It’s thanks to donor support that my cancer was found before it became invasive,” Michelle says. “It’s because of the equipment you helped to fund that I’m where I am today. Thank you.”

Yes! I want to make a difference in the lives of patients.




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