Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Sabine Bousleiman, RN, MSN, MSPH

April 27, 2020

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, we'll share an update from a member of our team in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Today's note is from Sabine Bousleiman, RN, MSN, MSPH, Program Director in Research in the Department of Ob/Gyn at NYP/CUIMC, with contributions from other redeployed members of the Ob/Gyn research team.

Mirella Mourad, MD and Sabine Bousleiman, RN, MSN, MSPH
Mirella Mourad, MD and Sabine Bousleiman, RN, MSN, MSPH

Our Ob/Gyn research team was the first to be redeployed on March 26. Michelle DiVito, Senior Director of Research Administration, called me on March 24 and said we are needed on labor and delivery because of the new visitors policy. At the time, no visitors were allowed on labor and delivery, and the moms needed support. This was reversed, and the no visitors policy is now restricted to postpartum and antepartum.

We are a team of 20 with varied backgrounds: a nurse, foreign trained medical doctors, medical assistants, and coordinators. Some continue to work on other critical research work, but most were able to be redeployed fully or partially. Dr. Berkowitz’s reflections hit home because that was our team, a few who jumped in fearlessly, and some who had doubts and fears. Casandra and I, as managers, were the first to go on the units after working from home for a week. We had our fears and we had our doubts. Once we arrived, we were given masks by the nurses and we were assigned tasks. We were not to assist with PUIs or known positives. The responses we received from patients, nurses, and doctors made us forget our fears and abolish our doubts. The research staff who followed reported the same experiences.

 Here are some of the things they said:  

“I’m grateful to be helpful.”

“I’m thankful to be part of the hospital team.”

“I felt productive today.”

“My patient asked me if I can stay longer, because she could use the help.”

“If I can’t help my sick family at this time, I am happy and grateful to help the nurses, doctors, and beautiful mothers that I can. It’s the least I can do to feel efficient and effective. “

“Even though I am frightened, and at the start of every week my anxiety goes all the way up, I have accepted that the Lord only gives you battles he knows you can handle. If my mission is to assist in times of need, I will continue to give 100 percent. He will be right by my side protecting me and guiding me every step of the way.”

“I stepped into the hospital and I realized that the setting has changed. Equipment is everywhere, the waiting areas are less crowded, and even the way that we greeted each other changed. But the fundamentals have remained the same. The quality of care and the hard work and the kindness of our staff have always been outstanding.” 

“I have had death among family and friends, but when I went to the units, I felt my spirits were lifted by the patients and the nurses.”

“Being on the floor is rewarding, and feeling appreciated is what keeps me going.”

“I  chose to channel my fears and anxiety to motivate and support my patients and my team. It’s a  heartwarming, selfless, and rewarding experience.”

We did the most basic of tasks - holding the phone while a patient delivers so that her husband can witness the birth of their child, showing her how to change a diaper or swaddle her baby, helping her out of bed, picking up the car seat from where her family dropped it off, preparing diaper bags for discharge, distributing snacks, and filling up jugs with ice and water. Every task helped someone and that was what mattered in the end.

We know how to deal with pregnant moms, new moms, and women and we'd much rather serve in our department than any other department in the hospital. We know that our department will provide us with every support possible and we know our leadership has our back, whether it’s PPE, transportation, meals, schedule preferences and flexibility, assignment of COVID negative patients, or mental support. It is all there for us. In fact our team had a mental health session with Dr. Catherine Monk, Director of the Women’s Mental Health @Ob/Gyn initiative, earlier today.

It's not all rosy and we knew that going in. As Dr. Berkowitz said, we marshalled all of our energy and skills to fight the coronavirus scourge, we overcame the fear and stepped up to do what we believed is “the right thing.” We joined the heroes of our department, and we will support and encourage all who have been re-assigned to do the same.

Sabine Bousleiman, RN, MSN, MSPH, with contributions from other redeployed members of the Ob/Gyn research team