As a trauma nurse in the U.S. Air Force, Seliena Corrington learned early on that preparation is the key to responsiveness.
“In the Air Force, our focus was on maintaining readiness at all times,” said Corrington. “We were always training, both mentally and physically, to be prepared for whatever medical situations we might encounter.”

Today, as manager of Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital’s Emergency Services department and EMS liaison, Corrington puts the lessons she learned during her eight-year military career into use daily. Her experience and leadership have been especially valuable as the Emergency Department’s staff cares for COVID-19 patients from across the Bay Area.

Corrington entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant after earning her nursing degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. After a stint at Willford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, she served as trauma team lead at Balad Airbase in Iraq before ending her Air Force career at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. She retired in 2014 with the rank of captain.

In Iraq, she saw first-hand the value of preparation.
“My first mass casualty event as lead trauma nurse in Iraq was an experience I won’t forget,” said Corrington. “We received word at the base that we had multiple choppers incoming with 12 wounded patients. I learned then the importance of rallying my team emotionally and making sure they were prepared physically. In that type of environment, you have to think fast, move fast and keep safe. It’s a similar situation here, because we are seeing more patients than usual every day, and many require specialized care and handling to ensure that we don’t contract or spread the virus. Being prepared is a necessity.”

At Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital, Corrington oversees a staff of 54 nurses, medical technicians and support personnel who provide the first line of care in the fight against COVID-19. Her team has carefully developed a safe and effective approach for identifying, separating and treating COVID-19 patients, with input and ideas from across the hospital’s departments.

Patients who present at the Emergency Department are screened before entering, and those with suspected symptoms are taken immediately to COVID-only treatment rooms, where staff with proper protective equipment are on hand to provide care. The hospital also has an isolated waiting room and a “surge bubble” – a protected overflow area – for patients when the COVID treatment rooms are full.

To ensure that her staff is ready for each day’s challenges, Corrington spends time every morning going over likely scenarios with the team and ensuring that everyone is in the right frame of mind.

“My main priority is the safety of my staff and making sure that they are prepared and ready,” Corrington said. “We talk through everything – do we have enough protective equipment, how will we handle a surge of patients, how is everyone feeling, does anyone have concerns or ideas. It’s a constant process – building confidence, walking everyone through potential situations and developing effective responses.”

The Emergency Department team continues to handle the increased patient load with professionalism and a commitment to excellence, Corrington said.

“The folks on our team have done a fantastic job of being creative and developing ideas and approaches to COVID-19 that have made a tremendous difference,” she said. “In fact, we often hear from EMS personnel that our Emergency Department is better structured and safer than other hospitals, and that’s a testament to our team and its contributions. I’m really proud of everything we’ve done and continue to do to help those with COVID-19 while still treating other medical needs.”

As cases have once again begun to rise across the Bay Area, Corrington said that it’s important for people to take precautions.

“We are still capable of handling the current numbers of patients who have COVID-19, but the trajectory of new cases is worrying,” she said. “I encourage everyone to follow the protocols that we know work to slow the spread – wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large groups of 10 or more. As medical professionals, we are following these guidelines every day here at the hospital, and we encourage everyone to join us.”