Keeping Urgent Care Centers Safe Amid COVID-19

Stories From the #SouthcoastFrontlines: Dr. Nicole Coleman, Medical Director, Urgent Care Centers

Patient Safety is always a top priority at Southcoast Health, and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, this vital element of health care became even more important. Dr. Nicole Coleman, Medical Director of Urgent Care and a #SouthcoastFrontlines Hero, quickly stepped up last spring. She ensured patients across the region were receiving the care and attention they needed at Southcoast Health Urgent Care Centers while prioritizing patient and staff safety. 

Formerly specializing in the Emergency Department, Dr. Coleman utilized her emergency management skill set to assess the unknown, day by day when addressing COVID-19 in Urgent Care locations. Continuously adapting, she implemented new safety measures and screening techniques as necessary. Making COVID care her top priority, she even moved into the basement of her house to protect her wife from any potential virus exposure she could bring home during the first few months of the pandemic.

Dr. Coleman and her team continued to learn more about the virus each day. This resulted in developing systems to keep COVID patients and potential COVID patients separated from those who were not experiencing symptoms. Additionally, she focused on efficient ways to get more patients tested for COVID.

“I had a heightened awareness of how I was handling this for the safety of both myself and my co-workers,” Dr. Coleman says.

Established New Workflows to Minimize Risk of COVID-19

Working with each Urgent Care Center, Dr. Coleman traveled to every location to help establish new workflows, referring patients to specific locations based on their needs to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, she and her team also set up a testing tent at the Lakeville Urgent Care location. The testing tent served as a model for the larger-scale testing tents set up just a few weeks later outside Charlton Memorial, St. Luke’s, and Tobey.

The Dartmouth Urgent Care Center also transformed into a Respiratory Care Center with dedicated staff ready to assist and help care for COVID patients while keeping the risk of exposure contained. At this time, patient volume had initially dropped off due to the stay-at-home orders, but it gradually picked back up.

Reflecting on the past year, Dr. Coleman is thankful for her team. “Each staff member has been so fluid throughout this,” she says. “All the thanks goes to every one of them.” 

Frontline Staff Went to Work Ready to Battle

Working through a pandemic was challenging, but despite their fears, each day the frontline staff went to work ready to battle this disease. 

Now, just around a year later, the Urgent Care Centers are operating around 80% of their usual volume and have strong safety measures in place to accommodate patients at every site. Patient visits are expected to return to normal volume as people begin to adjust to the new normal, participating in more events and activities outside their homes.

Looking ahead, Dr. Coleman is hopeful that the COVID vaccines can help our community reach herd immunity. She missed celebrating her grandmother’s 95th birthday last April, but with the vaccine, she is happy to be able to celebrate her 96th together at a COVID-safe family celebration this year!

Thank you, Dr. Coleman!