KINGSTON – Several students and professors from the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy have rallied to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at Care New England Field Hospital in Cranston, including clinical assistant professor Dr Todd Brothers who coordinates pharmacy efforts there.
“Seeing these people step up – not just the pharmacy, but the nurses, the doctors, everyone – everyone is paddling this boat in the right direction,” Brothers said. “We all work as a cohesive group and decide how to get things done quickly. It’s invigorating to be a part of that.
Brothers, a Providence resident, has been practicing since 2002, having worked as an ICU pharmacist at Kent Hospital from 2004 to 2018, when he moved his clinical site to Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence. When Care New England needed someone to build a pharmacy at the field hospital set up to treat patients with COVID-19, the director turned to Brothers. In March, he began setting up the pharmacy before the infection curve flattened, eliminating the initial need. However, just before Thanksgiving, it became apparent that infections were on the rise and the hospital would be needed again.
The brothers got back to work with the support of URI Pharmacy Dean Paul Larrat and Department Director Kerry LaPlante. His first task was to start putting together a team to staff the pharmacy, which is not an easy task given the workload that all healthcare professionals face during the pandemic. He turned to Brett Feret, director of experiential education for the college.
“I reached out to Brett and told him I needed you to bang the drum because I don’t think a lot of doctors aren’t already working,” Brothers said. “If the students want to be involved, if the faculty members want to be involved, I would appreciate if they could help. We sent an APB to the state, and I asked pharmacists from almost every hospital, as well as URI faculty. URI students volunteered to serve as pharmacy technicians. All of these leaders came together and were willing to ask us what we needed. “
URI pharmacy professors Margeret Charpentier, Britny Rogala, Kristina Ward, Michael Simeone and Jane Pawasauskus joined pharmacy students Joe Honig, Hannah Feratta and Morgan Chatterly, as well as several URI graduates, in responding to the call to serve. Faculty members serve as full-service pharmacists, while students serve as pharmacy technicians. They help fill orders and deliver medicines to the “hot spots” of the huge field hospital that Brothers describes as akin to a large denuded area of its aisles and merchandise. It is a large empty space in which he was asked to build a pharmacy from scratch.
“The building has a large footprint on football fields. I’m taking my steps, I’ll tell you, ”he said. “It is a fully equipped building, with a ventilation system and supplemental oxygen throughout the facility.”
The hospital was put into operation on Monday, November 30, admitting patients positive for COVID-19. The number is expected to rise as coronavirus infections in Rhode Island increase ahead of the expected influx of additional vaccine supplies later this year. The hospital is designed to accommodate around 350 patients, divided into three pods that can each accommodate more than 100.
The single pharmacy serves all three modules. In addition, part of a capsule is reserved for residents of nursing homes who have tested positive for the virus and have mild to moderate symptoms. Up to 24 residents per day are transported to the facility to receive injections of monoclonal antibodies, proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight harmful pathogens. Patients are observed at the field hospital for two hours to ensure that they do not suffer from serious side effects, before being taken home.
“We describe Pod B as an ambulatory infusion unit because that’s pretty much how we manage it,” Brothers said. “We’re basically trying to run two pharmacies at the same time – a hospital and an outpatient facility. But every infusion literally saves a life, so it’s up to us to figure out the logistics and implement them.
Despite several logistical challenges one might expect when building a pharmacy from scratch, Brothers and his team were ready, in large part thanks to pharmacy professionals from all walks of life who stepped up to help, students entering their pharmaceutical internship to pharmacists who have been working for over 30 years.
“I take inspiration from all of these professionals and their experience, and we make it happen safely,” Brothers said. “It helps me overcome the lack of sleep, the stress and the responsibility of having these brave pharmacy leaders to support the effort. It’s just awesome. We all realize that the community is counting on us. We cannot fail. It’s that simple. “
Even the students, who could be expected to feel overwhelmed with their fieldwork for the first time under such circumstances, rushed into the field, ready to jump into the fray.
“I expected them to come worrying about being exposed or overwhelmed by work, but they literally rolled up their sleeves and asked ‘What do you need me to do? I’m ready, ”Brothers said. “Greedy is the right word. Eager to learn. Eager to see leadership in action. Eager to help. It is one thing to hear how to become a pharmacist and to learn all the information about drugs in the classroom. seeing the communication, the leadership, the way things actually work is an invaluable tool for them and their professional development.
The main role of Brothers was to start the field hospital, train professional and support staff and supervise operations, in addition to working shifts in the pharmacy himself. He meets every morning with the heads of the field hospital, officials from the Ministry of Health, the National Guard and the governor’s office to get the recap of the day, discuss any issues that have arisen. and find quick fixes for them.
“What’s really amazing is that we discuss some really serious patient safety and logistics issues and then the conversation turns to, hey, the dumpster in the back needs to be emptied or the parking lot needs to be. salty, ”Brothers said. “You don’t think about these things, but they have to be taken care of. The level of cooperation is incredible. I would like my life to work that way – you bring everyone in your life together every day and say, “OK, what’s the big deal; let’s fix it. ‘ And the next day it’s fixed. We literally have all the resources at our fingertips.
Care New England is expected to continue operating the field hospital until enough people have been vaccinated and when scientists are satisfied there will be no further significant increase in infections. The good news, Brothers said, is that he has been asked to submit the number of pharmacy employees for the vaccine list, a sign that the vaccine is coming soon. But until then, he’s still trying to make sure he has the staff to handle the push.
“Right now I can breathe because I have enough staff, but not if we have 350 patients,” Brothers said. “If we are operating at full capacity, I cannot staff the pharmacy with a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician; I’ll probably have to triple. So I will probably need more staff.
Anyone interested in a position at the Field Hospital can email Brothers at email@example.com. He does not hesitate to give all the credit to the pharmacists, students and professors who mobilized to help in such difficult circumstances. This willpower is quite normal for medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to saving others, he said.
“I’m the leader in this area, but it’s all about the people who stand up and help,” Brothers said. “I got this opportunity because of the circumstances and the people I knew working in Kent. But I know if it wasn’t for me, any other faculty member in the same position would have stepped up and done the same. We are not saviors. We are not heroes. This is exactly what we are doing. Is this a whole different level of what we do? Yes. But that’s what our training prepared us for.
While those on the front lines are certainly feeling the stress and devastation of the pandemic, their training has also taught them how to deal with such difficulties and how to keep things in perspective.
“One thing that intensive care has taught me over 20 years is that life is short,” Brothers said. “No matter what is going on in our lives, it has taught me that life is precious. The gift of knowing to take care of our most vulnerable is the reason we get up in the morning. “