May 29, 2020

'No one knew what was going to happen with the virus and plans changed hourly, daily and weekly'

Alumna Kathryn Kurylo reflects on life and work on post-anesthetic care unit at Foothills as COVID becomes new normal
Kathryn Kurylo BN'03
Kathryn Kurylo BN'03

In post-anesthesia care, you don't get assignments. Surgeries come in and out of the unit, the room ebbs and flows. PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) is considered a critical care area as it is ICU backup. Most nurses in the area consider themselves to be generalists as we care for patients who have all different kinds of surgeries and health issues.  

When COVID first started, PACU staff were busy preparing for the worst-case scenario, especially because the unit is ICU backup. All elective surgeries were cancelled and one whole floor of ORs and a PACU were closed. This allowed nurses to get extra training as we were not as busy as we had been pre-COVID. A handful of nurses from PACU with current ICU experience were redeployed to the ICU. 

Other staff, like myself, were given education packages to "brush up" on their critical care knowledge and skills. PACU staff also trained nurses from other units in case many people became sick and those nurses needed to be redeployed to PACU. There was also extra education and training done on the unit with staff that was tailored toward caring for the COVID patient.

It was a bit of a tense time as some of my colleagues had not worked in an ICU environment and the thought of being thrown into that area during a pandemic was stressful. No one knew what was going to happen with the virus and plans changed hourly, daily and weekly. 

Now that we are nearing four months of our new "normal," things are settling on the unit. Plans have been put in place to care for COVID and potential COVID patients. The number of surgeries being done on a daily basis remains below what it was pre-COVID as many patients remain hesitant to come to the hospital at this time due to the ongoing threat of the virus. 

Many of us are still concerned how this virus will affect people who are waiting longer to get their surgeries as well as for what the fall will bring when experts say there will be another spike in cases.

On a personal note, COVID has been a stressful time in and out of work as I was recently divorced and when school was cancelled, I was scrambling for care for my three young children. Work had its stressors and my Dad was palliative — he passed away two weeks ago. 

I am hoping for the best for the opening up of the city as summer and nicer weather are here and the situation we are in has been stressful for most.

Kathryn Kurylo, BN'03 is a Post Anesthetic Care Unit (PACU) nurse who currently works in the recovery room at the Foothills Hospital. She started as an undergrad nurse in vascular surgery at the Peter Lougheed Centre and worked there as an RN before working in California on a medical cardiology floor for a year. She also worked in CICU (cardiac intensive care) until 2014 and has been in PACU for the last six years.


UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.