By Karen Gorby, RN, MSN, MBA, CENP, FACHE, CEO/CNO for Angel Medical Center
To say that life has changed drastically for all of us over the last couple months is certainly a huge understatement. With COVID-19, we’re adjusting to a “new normal” of wearing masks at the grocery store, having our homes become classrooms and offices, and social distancing. Our community has been very fortunate in that as far as we’re aware, we haven’t yet had any patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in the town of Franklin; we’ve only had one COVID-positive patient county resident diagnosed, and another who was an out-of-state visitor.
Angel Medical Center (AMC) became a kind of cocoon as we locked our doors, put limited visitation into effect, and started to screen all staff members and patients who enter the hospital by asking them a series of questions, such as whether they’re experiencing any well-known COVID-19 symptoms, like fever or dry cough, and taking their temperatures. Every one of our staff members is now wearing masks as well.
Even though things are very different now, I want to emphasize that it’s absolutely safe to come to the AMC Emergency Department for your urgent healthcare needs, such as heart attack or stroke symptoms. In fact, it’s very important that you don’t hesitate — we are here and able to provide you with very safe care. If you experience non-urgent symptoms, like a urinary tract infection or other routine needs, you may visit your primary care provider or Mission My Care Now.
May 6th -12th is National Nursing Week, and this month I acknowledge with special emphasis our nurses, who have stepped up to the plate in extraordinary ways as the pandemic arrived. They’ve adapted instantly to many changes and they’ve started performing their duties very differently, as this dynamic situation and the knowledge about how to work within it changes not only by the day, but the hour. One example is that every nurse – and staff member for that matter – has adopted wearing a mask at all times. While it protects our patients and our staff, it presents a figurative and literal barrier as they deliver care and work with each other. Only now do we understand how much emotion and expression are conveyed by the lower half of someone’s face. Even though our nurses’ faces aren’t fully exposed to their patients, they still manage to infuse their patient interactions with the same certainty, competence, and empathy as before; I’m seeing it every day.
All of our caregivers don’t know what they’ll be presented with, whether it’s treating and comforting a patient with the virus, contracting it themselves, or having to go into isolation, yet they exhibit no hesitation. Rather, in the face of unknown danger, they boldly approach it. They’re totally committed to take care of their patients and each other, notwithstanding any diagnosis or potential risk.
It’s also important to note that we want for nothing when it comes to our supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). HCA Healthcare was highly proactive early on with planning and procuring more than enough medical supplies for AMC. For example, our pharmacy managers were alerted to increase the stock levels of certain medications used in the care of COVID-19 patients, so we were able to stock our pharmacy adequately ahead of time.
We’ve also benefitted from being able to analyze and shift directions when needed as we’ve observed the COVID-19-specific initiatives and evolving standards of practice across our 186-hospital system, especially those who have treated many COVID patients.
This month we also celebrate National Hospital Week from May 10-16th, and across the board, the entire AMC staff has stepped up tremendously. They’ve stood up to every challenge that’s faced them, and welcomed implementing new ways of working to keep their patients and themselves safe. Whether it’s our Environmental Services staff, who have been required to increase the intensity and frequency of their cleaning and disinfecting routines, to our admissions staff, who continue to welcome any and all patients with open arms (even if they’re over six feet away). It’s apparent that every staff member’s focus is excellence. That, combined with a hospital-wide team mentality, has created a transformed type of caring culture here at AMC.
None of us ever imagined we’d be experiencing something like this. In fact, as I facilitated our daily staff rounds recently, we all agreed that we’re living through history and that it challenges all of us differently. We know that living in a world where staying at least six feet apart when we’re in the presence of others or enjoying coffee with a friend – not at a café but virtually – isn’t how we all prefer to live life, but these restrictions, as well as things like practicing careful handwashing hygiene, are critical to preserving our own and this community’s health and safety.
New discoveries are constantly being made about this complex virus, and I know that’s unsettling (should we add “and scary” here too?), but I want to assure you that all practices and protocols we adopt are evidenced-based, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and your care, especially now, is the reason why each and every one of us is here giving 100 percent of our minds, hands, and hearts.
Karen S. Gorby, RN, MSN, MBA, CENP, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Angel Medical Center. Gorby is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). For nearly three decades, she has served hospitals and health systems in Ohio before assuming her role at Angel Medical Center. Gorby received her MSN from Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, and her MBA from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio.