Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
This week has been a terrible week. We’ve had a lot of snow (of course nothing compared to places like Boston!), all dumped on us on several different days. Roads were treacherous. We had a terrible train crash and fire that destroyed homes and contaminated the river about 30 miles away. We’ve had frigid subzero temperatures that are record breaking for Charleston.
In Kanawha City, where our hospital is located, we had a serious water main break. That left our hospital with low water pressure or without water overnight, and on a boil water advisory for the last 36 hours. It put us in danger of freezing pipes within our organization. Our kitchen elevator decided to not work, leaving our kitchen staff hauling food up from the kitchen in crates to our patient care units until it was fixed. And finally, last night one of our heating units had had just about enough and gave up, leaving our kitchen very cold.
Through all of this chaos, patients continued to come to us for care. And those patients who were already with us continued to need care. So, where’s the silver lining? Well, there were some very bright and shiny moments within all of this. Our staff members are phenomenal. I am not going to mention anyone by name for fear of missing someone and how they quietly did what needed to be done to make sure our patients received care, but you’ll know who you are as I describe what our staff accomplished.
One of the first issues on Monday was how to get staff to the hospital if they couldn’t get there on their own. A member of our facilities staff made numerous trips, out in the horrendous weather with treacherous roads, picking up staff members and transporting them to the hospital—and then caught a bit of sleep in the hospital, and was out on the road again. Other members of our facilities staff have been out in the frigid cold and snow beginning at 4 in the morning on some days, plowing a way for those of us who were brave enough to drive. Our clinical staff members have been amazing. For instance, when the snow was getting bad on Monday, a staff nurse called us because she was already in Charleston for an appointment and offered to come in and help. She stayed for several shifts.
Many staff volunteered to stay overtime, or to switch shifts to help out. Two admissions clerks slept over night in the hospital to make sure that someone was here to provide prompt admission care to anyone who needed it. Our kitchen personnel have been challenged by snow, elevators, boil water advisories, and broken heaters and still rose to every challenge, and made sure that our patients were fed. Our housekeeping staff, while trying to manage salt and dirty snow brought in on everyone’s feet in addition to all of their other duties, also managed to help Montgomery Hospital with their laundry as they were impacted by the water shut down as a result of the train accident. A member of our IT staff slept in her office so that she could be available if there was help needed on the clinical units overnight.
A member of our marketing department was in an accident on the turnpike on Monday AM, putting his car out of commission, but luckily remaining safe himself. He walked to work on Tuesday! Others took the bus instead of driving. One of our billing clerks came in and worked overnight one night because the billing had to go out…..and the snow was coming. The water company, while working on the water main break for hours on end, made sure we had drinking water for our patients. I could go on and on.
These seem like exceptional acts. They are. However, these are the kinds of things that happen every day in our organization. We live our mission to provide the highest quality behavioral health care for our patients every day. And sometimes how we accomplish that mission is by making extraordinary efforts. This week is no different. I am so proud of our staff and the work that they do every day. Another job well done!