Brock alumni help deliver critical care in Niagara

A quality critical care facility is something you don’t realize is important until you need to use it .Niagara Health is home to a Level 3 Intensive Care Unit providing the highest level of critical care that wouldn’t be possible without a talented team of registered nurses.

Among the 26 nurses in Niagara Health’s Critical Care Response Team (CCRT) are numerous Brock University nursing program alumni, including clinical manager Elayn Young (BScN ’02) and registered nurse Mark Dinga (BscN ’08).

Young is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the CCRT, Critical Care Department and the Respiratory Therapy program for Niagara Health. A major aspect of her role is to ensure critical care is taken from the ICU out to the rest of the hospital.

“The CCRT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take care of the sickest, most acute patients in the region,” said Young. “We are available to be called to anywhere in the hospital, day or night.”

The CCRT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take care of the sickest, most acute patients in the region

Patients presenting to the hospital or being transferred from another ICU in Niagara with life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis, heart attack, stroke or respiratory failure could be taken care of by the CCRT.

“We can be called to the emergency department, medical or surgical floors to take over care and transfer the patient to our floor in the ICU. We work to stabilize and provide advanced life support treatment including advanced airway management,” said Young.

Respiratory therapists, as an integral part of the CCRT, provide care for people’s lungs and manage needs such as ventilation and airway management.

“We definitely work in a high-stress and complex environment due to the technology and medications we deal with,” said Young. “Fortunately, the professors in the Brock nursing program stress the professional aspect of nursing and have really encouraged aspiring nurses to raise their standards.”

Young’s role also involves mentoring less-experienced critical care nurses.

“When a novice ICU nurse joins our team, I enjoy watching their knowledge and confidence grow. For example, Mark Dinga was relatively new when I started here and he has progressively taken more informal leadership roles within the unit,” she said, describing Dinga as “calm and collected” with a strong attention to detail.

When the CCRT was developed in Niagara in 2015, Dinga was one of its first members.

“At any given time, there are three of us dedicated to the team, a physician, respiratory therapist and registered nurse. Having a dedicated RN means time is set aside to helping people outside of the ICU,” Dinga said.

“Much of the work of the dedicated RN is focused on prevention activities. Often, we already know the special needs of the patient. By catching things early we can start treatment right away.”

If a situation arises where the CCRT is activated, the team responds with a specialized cart that allows them to begin triage on the spot.

“Being able to bring our cart bedside saves us from having to find items that might not necessarily be on the floor. The cart is supplied with a defibrillator, glide scope to intubate, IV fluids and other medications that might be needed,” Dinga said.

Another complex aspect of Dinga’s role is helping patients and families have realistic end of life discussions.

“Sometimes the goal is not to swoop in and fix the person. Sometimes there are situations where there is not a lot we can do medically. So what needs to happen is finding out how much treatment a person wants before ensuring a comfortable death with dignity.”

While dealing with those situations can be emotional and tiring, there are other outcomes he finds energizing.

“Sometimes I’ll be standing in a line waiting for coffee or doing my groceries and I’ll see a patient who I treated that was on life support. Often they have no idea the role I played in helping them, but it is wonderful to see them get better.”

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