Walk in our shoes – A Day in the Life of a COVID-19 Testing Team

Markeeta Matthews1, Jo Schmolzer1, Alison West1, Janet Carty1

1Department of Health, Hobart, Australia


COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. The first known cases of COVID-19 were reported in December 2019. North West Tasmania was subject to a significant outbreak in March 2020 which by 6 April 2020, had grown to include infected staff from North West Regional Hospital.

Ready access to testing for COVID-19 is a first line response to monitor and track disease and achieve rapid containment of disease, ensuring positive community members are identified and isolated. It is a quick and easy (relatively) public health measure that makes a profound difference.

The evolution of testing for COVID-19 has been a significant learning journey for COVID-19 Testing Clinic leaders and their teams. Teams are led by Nurse Unit Managers. All are relatively small teams that have demonstrated great flexibility and ability to implement new and innovative solutions time and time again.

Starting with a desk in a small, draughty marquee in North West Tasmania the service has grown exponentially to include:

  • 4 fixed Clinics in major population centres
  • 4 mobile Clinics to rapidly deploy to sites all over Tasmania
  • Pop up Clinics to deal with localised response
  • Testing in government managed quarantine facilities
  • Testing at borders (airports and ports)
  • Testing on board marine vessels
  • Rapid response testing at very short notice
  • Supporting/educating other service providers and community members

Our teams have to be prepared to work in environments and situations that most other nursing roles do not equip us for – we truly work in The Field!


Markeeta Matthews’s primary nursing career has been in the Perioperative setting – both public and private sectors on the North West Coast of Tasmania. Markeeta’s clinical focus was in Endoscopy services as an Associate Nurse Unit Manager, until she accepted the call to help setup the first COVID-19 respiratory drive through Testing Clinic in April 2020.
Markeeta has continued as the Nurse Unit Manager of both North West COVID-19 Testing Clinics with passion, resilience and determination to continue to support and provide leadership to the teams and develop the service model to meet community needs.

Janet Carty is an experienced registered nurse and health executive. In 2020, Janet completed 38 years of permanent service in the Tasmanian Public Sector, leading a project to review the Tasmanian public sector nursing and midwifery career structure in the Office of the Chief Nurse and Midwife. Until the pandemic Janet worked in nursing assessment as part of a Commonwealth aged care funding project and in late 2020, undertook a 3 month engagement with the Australian Government Health Grants and Network Division providing leadership and senior case management services for the COVID-19 Victorian Aged Care pandemic outbreaks. With the advent of the pandemic, Janet returned to the public service (now a 40 year veteran) and has been working as a Project Nurse in the Operations Team of the Health Emergency Coordination Centre. Janet’s main focus is in the area of COVID-19 testing and developing a workforce model to take the service forward.

Jo Schmolzer is a registered nurse with over 30 years’ experience. Jo has worked predominantly in emergency departments and remote communities across Australia. Working in remote communities ignited Jo’s passion for implementing public health measures and education, Jo has also been involved in disaster planning. When an opportunity to work in the Hobart COVID-19 Testing Clinic arose, Jo jumped at it. Jo has worked in the Clinic since April 2020 and became the acting Nurse Unit Manager of the Clinic in November 2020.
Jo aims to adapt, improvise and overcome in collaboration with her passionate team.

Alison has over 20 years’ experience as a Registered Nurse and is currently working as the Acting Nurse Unit Manager at the COVID 19 Testing Clinic for southern Tasmania. Alison’s usual role is as a Clinical Nurse Consultant in the Emergency Department at the Royal Hobart Hospital. She is a member of the Tasmanian Board of the College of Emergency Nursing (CENA). Alison has embraced many leadership roles throughout her career including Clinical Nurse Educator, Graduate Nurse Facilitator and in several roles with UTAS. Alison holds post graduate qualifications in emergency nursing and is passionate about supporting our nursing staff to provide high standard nursing care.