Meridith Vaughan, RN BSN, a nurse at CVMC’s Berlin ExpressCare, at CVMC's pop-up collection site.

Meridith Vaughan, RN BSN, a nurse at CVMC’s Berlin ExpressCare, at CVMC's pop-up collection site.

Braving the Elements and the Unknown: CVMC’s COVID-19 Pop-Up Collection Site

Posted on Friday, May 8, 2020 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

March and April were especially cold at the CVMC pop-up collection site, where CVMC nurses take samples for COVID-19 testing.

The site sits at the top of a hill and the bitter winter winds howl through. While patients wait in their heated vehicles, bundled nurses wearing face shields, gowns, gloves, and masks huddle around patio heaters to stay warm between tests.

“There are days where we can’t feel our fingers or toes by end of shift,” said the testing site’s lead Meridith Vaughan, RN BSN. “We’ve tested in snow and in rain – one nurse even singed her blue exam gloves by getting too close to the heater!”

Vaughan, typically a nurse at CVMC’s Berlin ExpressCare, was asked to spearhead the operation of the site because of her experience running organizations and her knowledge of CVMC’s new Epic medical records system. The Epic system enables the CVMC COVID-19 call center to schedule tests for the illness at the remote site on the same day.

“The order and appointment is entered at the call center, and instantaneously is ready here at the pop-up site,” said Vaughan. “That type of same-day service wouldn’t have been possible last year.”

Day-to-day teams at the pop-up site range from 4-5 people from all over CVMC, and can include nurses, clinical care associates, physical therapists, and administrative staff.

“We formed teams of people who don’t normally work together. Everyone is there volunteering their skills toward a common purpose,” said Vaughan. “The first few days were rocky, but we’re now a well-oiled machine able to test 20 patients in about 40 minutes.”

The tasks associated with the drive-through testing site are different than the team’s pre-COVID assignments, but none more so than the duty of de facto car mechanic – several vehicles have failed while waiting for the test.

“Cars stall, or have their batteries fail,” says Vaughan. “We’ve had to push them out of the way, or security has given them a jumpstart.”

Despite hardships like overseeing newly formed teams taking on new challenges, harsh weather, or mechanical failures, Vaughan has found the work inspiring.

“This work serves to remind us that everybody who works at CVMC is a team,” Vaughan remarked. “That can get lost when you only work for one department, but it becomes obvious as people come together for the community. No matter how far apart we may be, we have a profound effect on one another.”