HealthTrust members prove to be everyday heroes on the pandemic battleground
In the war against COVID-19, heroic front-line healthcare workers have proven themselves to be what HealthTrust is recognizing as Clinical Warriors. Their remarkable courage, sacrifice, compassion and dedication to their patients have saved lives and been an inspiration.
The stories we hear of bravery are countless, and many more of them go untold each and every day. We talked to some of these Warriors from member hospitals for the new HealthTrust podcast series, “Candid Conversations.” Below we share some of their stories. Click here to read more and to listen to the full interview recordings.
Going beyond the call of duty
When hospitals in New Orleans were being overwhelmed by the pandemic, over 200 nurses in the Kansas City area stepped up to help. Suzanne Ford, RN, MHA, VP of Nursing Operations for HCA MidAmerica Division, says that when they put the call out for volunteers to travel to New Orleans to lend a hand, nurses signed up without hesitation. “It was an immediate, ‘Yes, I will come. I will do what’s needed,’ ” Ford recalls in an episode of the “Candid Conversations” podcast.
Nurses from Belton Regional, Overland Park Regional, Menorah Medical Center, Centerpoint Medical Center and Lee’s Summit Medical Center brought much-needed relief to the staff and patients at Tulane Medical Center. The hospitals are all part of HCA MidAmerica Division.
Amelia Ellsworth, RN, CCRN, Critical Care Nurse at Centerpoint, was part of the first of three waves of nurses and joined Ford on “Candid Conversations.” She says that many people have asked her why she volunteered to put herself in harm’s way of the virus. “It’s hard to describe that gut instinct. I think all of us in medicine, especially in critical care, are people who run toward disaster every day. This is who we are as nurses, as healthcare providers, as physicians or EMTs,” she says. “We’re all there to fight a fight every day.”
Innovating new weapons
Christina Simeone, Clinical Resource Director, Jersey City Medical Center (which is close to the epicenter of New York City), saw an innovative way front-line workers were adding a layer of protection—with “isolation pods” made of plastic and PVC piping. She spotted the solution on social media and pulled together the resources to make it happen, commissioning her husband, Tom, to help build pods for her facility. “When you bring your knowledge and skills and work together, you can get through anything,” says Simeone. “You start seeing how much power we have when we unite.”
Perhaps the strongest weapons will come in the form of treatment. Clinical Warriors at Mercy Hospital St. Louis and Albany Medical Center in New York are among those working diligently to find a treatment for COVID-19 as part of an investigation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), studying convalescent blood plasma therapy. Beginning in April, staff have been collecting plasma from eligible donors, administering the treatment to active patients and then reporting the results to the FDA.
Emily Schindler, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of Mercy Blood Donor Services in St. Louis, talked to HealthTrust about the convalescent blood plasma program and the heroic efforts of the entire hospital staff. “It’s been really exceptional. The people contacted by our team are very excited to help out, rearranging their schedules to come in and donate this plasma as soon as they are eligible,” says Dr. Schindler. “It’s really heartwarming to see how the community has responded to this need.”
Fighting for hope
Hope and joy have healing power—and Clinical Warriors are bringing that, too. The care team at Henrico, Parham & Retreat Doctors’ Hospitals in Richmond, Virginia, surprised a patient, Freddie, with a wedding anniversary celebration that he and Peggy, his bride of 30 years, will remember for years to come. Complete with balloons, flowers and treats, Freddie and Peggy celebrated together, though separated by the hospital lobby windows.
Other healthcare workers are bringing smiles to their patients’ faces by rocking the tunes. When an elderly patient at a Baylor Scott & White facility asked his nurse if she could dance, she rounded up a few team members and rose to the challenge. In a social media post shared by the hospital, a nurse said, “Seeing his big smile, him clapping along, and saying ‘You precious girls, that was great!’ That was the best! When people ask how we have time for this, just know, we make the time because it’s totally worth it.”
Some hospitals have adopted calling a “code happy” when a COVID-19 patient is being discharged. A time for celebration, healthcare workers line the halls to cheer and wave goodbye as the patient leaves the hospital.
While personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary to protect against coronavirus, many healthcare workers believe PPE also makes it difficult to create a much-needed human connection with patients. Joseph Varon, M.D., Chief of Staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, decided to bring back that connection by attaching a friendly photo of himself to his protective gear, encouraging other staff to follow.
“Giving patients hope through a friendly face is 50% of the battle,” says Dr. Varon in an Elite Readers article.
Nurses at HCA MidAmerica hospitals are using technology to connect with patients despite having to limit the time they spend in patients’ rooms because of COVID-19 restrictions. “It’s anti-nurse to not be at the bedside, having that contact and sharing that compassion,” says Ford. But telemedicine, texting and FaceTime are helping to bring back that connection. “I think they have been extremely helpful … in being able to connect with the patient.”
Defending the youngest among us
Hospital visits can be scary for kids at the best of times, and especially so during a global pandemic. Child life specialists are there to support children and help them cope with stressful experiences.
Jessica Liles, MPS, CCLS, Director of Child Life at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, talked to HealthTrust for a “Clinical Conversations” episode. “I like to think that I’m in control, but it’s things like a pandemic that help to remind me that I am not,” she says. “Children are the same. They want to feel they are in control of their environment, so we help them find ways to feel they have a sense of control.”
During the pandemic, Liles and her team have had to think outside the box and be creative to meet the needs of their patients. When their in-person programming was canceled, they moved many activities to the hospital’s closed-circuit TV channel—including a virtual Easter egg hunt.
As the hospital prepares for the return of elective surgeries, one room has been designated specifically for COVID-19 testing, with a Monsters, Inc. theme to make it less scary and more familiar than a sterile testing space.
“I really think this season has caused everyone to slow down, take a step back and look at the why behind what we’re doing, and figure out how we can do it even better,” says Liles.
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