How UCI got out in front on virus testing

April 13, 2020

As part of a whirlwind effort to combat COVID-19, UCI Health officials decided in early March to launch drive-thru testing and tapped a nursing school leader to help roll out their plan.

Susanne Phillips, DNP
Susanne Phillips, DNP

The ambulatory care administration got some of Orange County’s first drive- thru screening sites up and running in just four days.

It was no small feat. “There are so many back-end details that go into an operation like this,” says Susan Tiso,
a clinical professor in UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing who runs one of the testing clinics.

UCI Medical Center leadership chose the screening locations and gained fire

marshal approval, then reached out to key player Susanne Phillips, a clinical professor of nursing, to assist with staffing and review clinical protocols.

The ambulatory care unit also collaborated with the information technology, pathology & laboratory services, environmental health & safety, and public safety units to implement new clinical processes and protocols while navigating a maze of regulations, potential resources and compliance directives.

With support from those divisions, Phillips ensured that each test site would be a fine-tuned operation. Every location has a testing team consisting of a nurse practitioner and a licensed vocational nurse or medical assistant. Security is on hand to direct traffic. And lab couriers routinely pick up specimens for testing.

Whenever a patient is recommended for testing, a COVID-19 triage team makes sure – by phone – that the person meets eligibility requirements and sets up an appointment, a process that was inaugurated earlier this year for walk-in testing.

Testing patients
Susanne Phillips, DNP, and medical assistant Eddie Garcia work together to test patients for COVID-19.

In addition to testing, the clinic teams assess and triage patients, answer questions, discuss symptoms and offer guidance on over-the- counter products that may offer relief.

“People are so thankful,” Phillips says. “And it gives me the opportunity to go back to my nursing roots. It has been busy but very fulfilling. This may be one of the most fulfilling moments of my career.”

Adeline “Adey” Nyamathi, founding dean of UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, says that Phillips and the screening site crews exemplify what makes UCI nurses so special: The faculty serve as both educators and clinicians in the field.

“Phillips’ commitment to health and wellness, leadership and innovative thinking are now restoring our community’s health when uncertainty is the new norm,” Nyamathi says.