Staff self-select for training in new Biocontainment Unit
What sort of professional commitment does it take to volunteer to provide care for the sickest patients with the most contagious infections for as long as it takes?
Just ask Jade Borromeo, RN, who jumped at the chance to train for the new Biocontainment Unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. No fear? “I think it was more intrigue. Nursing is definitely based on altruism,” Borromeo explains of her self-selection for the BCU. “[The possible danger] never occurred to me. My fiancé is a cop. He said, ‘Why are you doing this? I’m the one who’s supposed to be in danger on the job.’ ”
Her eagerness was not lost on Neysa Ernst, MSN, RN, who organized like-minded nurses to train for a potential crisis assignment on top of their regular jobs. (Borromeo is a nurse clinician in the Neuroscience Critical Care Unit.) Volunteers were told the work would be exhausting but also rewarding. Borromeo, who has been at the hospital since January 2012 and with the BCU team for just over a year, was sold. “I could feel how excited [Ernst] was to start this unit. And I was excited to join her in pioneering this.”
Photos by Chris Hartlove
The 7,900-square-foot BCU has only three patient rooms. There’s also a lab, showers, and “don and doff” areas where any of the 100 self-selected caregivers put on and remove personal protective equipment. Two machines sterilize waste and the ventilation system is separate from that of the hospital. “We have the all the processes in place to keep us safe,” Borromeo insists.
So far, the BCU, built where a pioneering HIV/AIDS clinic once stood, has had one admission and two lab activations to rule out infection, Ernst says. That lack of action is good news, of course, but Borromeo admits to a heightened sense of awareness when the phone rings late at night. “I don’t wish ill on anybody, ever, but the anticipation [of need] is there. We are in constant readiness.”