Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Nurses undertook the intricate task of coordinating medical volunteers for the Special Olympics

TEAM:  Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Nurses at the Special Olympics World Games
SUBMITTED BY: Nancy Blake, PhD, RN, CCRN, NEA-BC, FAAN, patient care services director in critical care, and Anna Kitabjian, BSN RN CPN PHN, staff nurse and Vicki Cho Estrada

Los Angeles was the host city to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. It was billed as “the largestsports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015.” While other health care organizations gave contributed supplies and volunteers, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was the definite backbone of healthcare support for the 2015 Games. Our hospital offered and coordinated volunteer medical services for the competing athletes at the game venues across the greater Los Angeles area.

Nursing leadership administration knew seeking medical volunteers for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games would generate interest from staff. But did not know their inboxes would be inundated with messages. More than 100 nurses responded to the email inviting nursing participation in the games.

Nursing administration and the orthopedic clinic staff coordinated nearly 140 clinical medical volunteers (nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, surgeons and athletic trainers) to triage care. A staff nurse coordinated and scheduled hospital volunteer nurses representing all areas of the hospital, including the Emergency Department, Surgical Admitting and Float Pool, who provided first aid to athletes participating in the games.

In addition to giving their time during the games, our hospital’s volunteers attended orientation and information sessions to review protocols and procedures; likely medical scenarios such as sprains, strains and contusions; and potential medical challenges, including seizures and cardiac issues. The athletes, all of whom have intellectual disabilities, also often have some type of medical issue, so staff had to be prepared for anything. Coordination of the hospital’s involvement with the Special Olympics began in spring 2014.

The outcome of the outreach was that all three venues that our hospital was responsible for were completely and appropriately staffed during the entire week of the Olympic Games. All of the staff was thoroughly trained and able to handle anything and everything that arose during the games. Nurses cared for lacerations, bee stings, dehydration, hypoglycemia, trauma, abrasions, fevers, and panic attacks. Almost all the athletes were able to be cared for and return to the games.

One athlete in particular was a golfer and had a major problem with acquiring severe blisters that interfered with his golf game. One of the nurses took it upon herself to find the perfect type of blister band aids for him that would protect his hands and give him the ability to golf without constant pain. Each day all week, this athlete would come to the medical tent and ask for his blisters to be wrapped by the nurses. Each day, the blisters were wrapped on all of his fingers multiple times a day. He came with a smile, and he left with a smile.

At the end of the tournament and Olympic Games, this athlete had won gold! It was an amazing experience to know that the nurses that volunteered at the games could play such a large role in this special needs athlete winning gold in the world games. He came to the medical tent after the awards ceremony to show all the nurses his gold medal and take pictures with all his nurses, including the nurse who found him the special band aids at the beginning. He had the biggest smile on and was a huge reminder why we do what we do as nurses, and what we all can achieve together.

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