With today’s blog entry, I would like to discuss how proud we are of our employees at New Hanover Regional Medical Center who worked during the recent winter storm. Over four days and three nights, a staff of close to 1,800 cared for 600 patients, and often those patients’ families as well. We never closed – our emergency departments stayed busy throughout, our EMS units never stopped responding to calls and quality care continued on the inpatient units. Our staff worked through unbelievably tough conditions on three campuses while maintaining quality care, professionalism, positive attitudes and teamwork.
Our physician staff was equally committed. Under the leadership of Dr. Clyde Harris, chief of the NHRMC Medical Staff, we had physicians based in-house over three nights covering every necessary specialty without interruption in patient care.
On Tuesday afternoon, the day of the storm, we had our “storm team” report for duty expecting to sleep at least two nights at the hospital. We knew roads across the region would ice over and make travel dangerous and next to impossible. We had enough employees to work both the day and night shifts, so while one worked the other slept on air mattresses we provided, often in rooms of 20 or more, almost shoulder-to-shoulder.
By mid-Thursday afternoon, we realized the roads were as bad as they ever were and were not going to improve until the next day. We delivered the difficult news that staff would have to stay an extra night on an air mattress and go another day without seeing their spouse or children.
This was not an easy decision. All of us were tired and many of us were not prepared for the third night and fourth day. We found extra NHRMC promotional T-shirts and gave them to staff who had run out of clothes. But if spirits sagged at all, they didn’t sag for long. Those nurses, physicians, nurse aids, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, support staff and administrators rallied and took care of our patients, almost all displaying upbeat attitudes and camaraderie that comes from working with people you respect and trust. It was one of this hospital’s finest hours.
When it was over, we had served close to 20,000 meals and managed to keep the building clean, working around sleeping schedules, and functioning. Our emergency departments treated more than 150 storm-related injuries. We even got creative and provided iPad tablets to patients who had not seen their loved ones in days so they could “Facetime” their spouse or child. A young woman pregnant at 29 weeks and bedridden was able to talk with - and see – her husband, practically bringing her to tears.
It’s hard to put into words how incredible our staff performed that week. Leadership at NHRMC is in awe of their dedication. We had our communications team take as many photos of staff as we could on the last night to help document the event. One nurse in a cardiac care unit held up a candy wrapper that had a “fortune” written on the back of the wrapper. It read: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
We spent four days and three nights with 1,800 people who, almost without fail, believed they were where they were supposed to be. It was an honor to serve with them, and our community should be very proud.
Click here for a photo album of some of the staff who cared for our patients - and each other - during the storm.