When patients with COVID-19 began presenting to hospitals in early 2020, medical professionals were unprepared to handle the severity of disease and the number of severely ill patients.

Local Problem

In response to critical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the threat of nurse burnout, a special operations team comprising physical and occupational therapists was convened to (1) provide help to intensive care unit nurses, (2) help therapists be productive, and (3) use therapists’ specialties for critical patients.


Two therapists teamed up each shift to work with every critical patient with COVID-19, performing numerous nursing and therapy activities. Activity frequency was documented by the therapists daily, and duration was estimated and data were summarized by nursing leadership.


During the 9-week program, 35 critical patients with COVID-19 were included in the special operations program. During the program, the teams performed 10 activities, including prone positioning, turning, and mobilization, 1937 times with the patients with COVID-19. The partnership saved between 5 and 40 minutes of intensive care nurse time per activity, which resulted in a total of 677.2 hours of nursing time saved.


Implementation of the special operations program had a positive impact on patients, nurses, and therapists. Patients benefited both clinically and socially from additional time with special operations teams. Nurses benefited from having help caring for critical patients, and therapists benefited from increased productivity during redeployment.


Deployment of nonnursing clinical staff could be an effective strategy to leverage available resources while maintaining clinical standards of care and reducing nursing burden during a pandemic or crisis surge.

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