Cindy Gilmore, Alberta General Surgery PA on the Frontlines of COVID-19

Health care is continuously changing; being able to adapt and overcome obstacles is critical to providing the best possible care for our patients, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. All healthcare professions in Canada are modifying their approach to patient care and revising these protocols on a daily basis.

My name is Cindy. I am employed as a Physician Assistant with the General Surgery department at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. The operating room has implemented many changes to battle this historic strain of coronavirus.

In order to combat this virus, many changes were required to ensure adequate staff and resources were available. The province cancelled all elective and non-urgent surgeries freeing up medical personnel and beds in preparation for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

This plan prioritized surgeries allowing patients with urgent life-threatening procedures and highly aggressive cancers to proceed in a safe and efficient manner. However, as this pandemic continues, less patients are being physically assessed and screened for cancer diagnoses decreasing the current surgical requirements.

The Misericordia Community Hospital has 2 operating theatres dedicated to COVID-19 potential/ positive patients. This designation allows for restricted access, ensuring staff and patient safety.

The operating rooms were stripped down to the bare essentials to accommodate effective cleaning between cases. Simulation practice is conducted twice-per-week, rotating through various hospital personnel.

Training is targeted towards appropriate patient flow, proper donning and doffing of PPE, and relevant patient care for those potentially infected with the virus.

Specific interprofessional simulation training includes difficult airway, respiratory failure, and ACLS scenarios. As provincial guidelines are revised, amended changes are implemented into these training exercises.

This health crisis reminds medical professionals to be ever vigilant, flexible, and to modify practices as we continue to learn how to effectively treat this strain of coronavirus.

About Cindy Gilmore, DMSc, CCPA

Cindy is a Canadian Certified Physician Assistant practicing General Surgery in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a recent graduate and the first Canadian PA to complete her doctorate degree from Lynchburg University. Cindy served 25 years with the military becoming a PA in 2009 through the Canadian Forces Health Services program. She completed her Masters (MPAS) in 2012 from the University of Nebraska. Since retiring, she has been an employee of Alberta Health Services.