East Region Colleagues Answer the Call for Help
Elissa Bass / Photos by Jeff Evans
Tania Kosmo, RN, has been redeployed at Windham Hospital to handle COVID testing near the Emergency Department entrance to the hospital.
When the recent Omicron wave of the COVID pandemic resulted in significant numbers of hospital staff out with illness, on top of a flood of inpatients, it was clear that help was needed.
Rebecca Durham, senior director of clinical and operational integration for the East Region, put out the call. Managers, directors, administrators, System Support Office team members, nurse navigators — all were asked if they could pitch in on care floors at Backus and Windham hospitals.
“Within a day, I received replies from everyone. Within three days, we had a schedule out,” Durham said. “There was just a tremendous outpouring, and people are continuing to offer. It’s been so great.”
A spreadsheet of areas needing help contains everything from hourly rounding to lunch break relief and from respiratory therapy couriers to people to help turn patients as needed. The schedule was filled through the end of January. The plan was to extend as needed.
“I want thank all of you for continuing to exemplify an unwavering resilience in the midst of this relentless pandemic,” said East Region President Donna Handley. “Because of your selfless efforts and incredible teamwork, we continued to provide the best and safest care possible for our patients by coordinating as a region to leverage all available care locations.
“All of our departments stepped up to help one another as team members continued to be out sick throughout the region. We could not be more proud of everything you have been able to accomplish.”
Catherine Bolles, a risk manager for region, did doing hourly rounding at Backus.
“My experience rounding has been great,” she said. “I have introduced myself to many people, both providers and nursing staff. I get the opportunity to thank them individually for all their hard work and dedication and ask, ‘How can I help you or your patients?’ I am met with many smiling faces from the staff members as well as patients. Even if it just means providing tissues or drinks, or restocking gloves in a room, it matters to them.”
Bolles said, “As a nurse, I want to help the staff in any way I can. They have worked exhaustively through the pandemic and my hope is that all individuals who are rounding provide the staff with the sense that we are here to support them. Working with patients at the bedside is a very rewarding feeling. I am grateful to hear patients tell me what a great care team they have.”
Community health nurse Michele Brezniak worked as “helping hands” on the Backus patient floor where she worked for 14 years before switching jobs last fall.
“I helped pass meds, assist the nurses and PCTs, do hourly rounding, answer phones and help the unit coordinator, transport patients, bring specimens to the lab, cover lunch breaks, answer call bells, bring patients to the bathroom — whatever the need was, I helped to fulfill it.”
When she heard help was needed, she said, “Going back was something I felt I needed to do, to help with how busy I know they are. If there is one thing COVID has shown us it’s that we are all in this together and I was happy to do my part to help.”
Glenn Stadnick, a regional compliance and internal audit manager in the East Region’s Office of Compliance and Integrity, took part in the daily safety huddle.
“I was regularly hearing the challenges associated with the volume and acuity of patients and the toll that was taking on the staff, so I thought if I could support the frontline staff and help with patient experience I would do what I could,” he said.
For Scott Vezina, radiology manager at Windham, rounding there was “a meaningful experience for me being able to actually help in small yet big ways. Knowing that it’s appreciated — hearing that over and over again — made me feel good about the extra time given. I’m not sure who got more out of it, them or me!”
Photos by Jeff Evans
Michele Brezniak, BSN, RN, the East Region Community Health nurse, checks on a patient in the Emergency Department at Backus Hospital as part of the redeployement plan put into place to alleviate the enormous demands placed on colleagues during this latest COVID surge.