Staff Storm Stories: Running a Hospital During a Blizzard

By UMMC Staff

Operating a hospital in the midst of a blizzard isn’t easy. The University of Maryland Medical Center, though, remained open despite two blizzards in one week that both dumped more than 20 inches of snow on Baltimore, thanks to the efforts of our employees, physicians and staff.

Below are some examples of the actions UMMC employees took to make sure the hospital was staffed and able to meet our patient care needs:

From Linda Ellis, Customer Relations Manager:

I know that many dedicated staff members worked long hours during the storm to provide services to our patients. I want to share the extraordinary efforts of two members of the Hospital Operator team.

Paula Sanders and Shantell Nelson came to work on Saturday morning and did not leave until Monday afternoon. They were the only operators who were able to make it in to work, and both of them worked 24/7 to answer the phones for the Medical Center during the duration of the storm.

On Saturday morning both of these ladies walked to work at 5 a.m. in the dark, at the height of the blizzard. It took Shantell over an hour to walk here from her home. This kind of work ethic and dedication is fundamental to making sure we are able to take care of our patients during emergencies. These ladies are “behind the scenes” staff, and are not often recognized for the contributions that they make.

Other Storm Stories/Heroes:

  • The Facilities group charged with keeping the heliport clear slept in four-hour shifts to cover each other, and one prepared meals for the entire staff throughout the storm.
  • On the medical intensive care unit, nursing staff teamed with support services staff to cover areas that were short staffed, including trash removal and room turnover.
  • Environmental services managers remained on site the entire weekend to cover significant staffing shortages.
  • Lab staff worked double shifts to cover colleagues who were unable to get in.
  • Elaine in the Medical/Surgical Distribution Center stayed on site to cover for staffing shortages, and checked all of the critical supply areas to ensure everything was stocked. (She also coached a senior vice president apprentice who lent a hand distributing supplies on Saturday.)

UMMC residents and interns also came to the rescue, working  diligently to get into the hospital and/or to find coverage if they couldn’t get out of their homes. Some specific examples:

  • Hitchhiked 20 miles up I-95
  • Walked 4-5 miles in the dark
  • Walked from Federal Hill to cover a colleague’s early call hours
  • Spent Saturday moonlighting at Mercy, slept at Mercy, then walked here to cover a colleague’s call
  • Traveled to the hospital the night before a call day
  • Stayed in call rooms several nights in a row

2 thoughts on “Staff Storm Stories: Running a Hospital During a Blizzard

  1. I am a hospital worker but not working at this time and I felt so helpless that I couldnt help in any kind of way. At my last job I stayed at the hospital for almost 36 hours during the blizzard of 2005/2006 and it was hard so I feel compasion for all emegency personel that made it in!!

  2. I too am a hospital employee under the University umbrella.
    When we sign on as employees of any of the hospitals we become members of a 24 hr operation.
    For us, no matter what the weather conditions (blizzard) are we are all essential employees no matter what department or what ever position you hold. We are here to have both hands in to make the “ship” run smoother.
    We have to remember it is about every person that crosses the doors of our hospitals to seeking medical care. They depend on us to give them the best of care no matter if there is 30” of snow right outside of our windows.
    If that means you have to stay for the long haul or make the long haul in, doing “other duties as assigned” outside of the scope of work you already do, staying extra hours, staying over night in the hospital, or eating hospital food for 5 days straight ?

    Employees do appreciate the acknowledgements that we get. I think it is a wonderful thing that supervisors, managers, and department heads take the time out and acknowledge those who are dedicated to their jobs.

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