Where to go During an Emergency

Asthma attacks. Broken bones. Dehydration. Ear infections. Irregular heartbeat. Infectious diseases. Uncontrollable vomiting. This is a short list of the medical problems that are handled each year in the Pediatric Emergency Department at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

Children and adults have different needs. This is why the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital has an exclusively pediatric emergency department staffed by highly experienced nurses and health care professionals trained to put children at ease. What makes this pediatric emergency department unique is the access to a large network of pediatric specialists who make up the Children’s Hospital. We are a resource for other physicians. When a case is very complicated, we are often called to help diagnose or treat complex problems. We pride ourselves on delivering care and compassion that can only come from an institution with a primary focus on providing the highest quality of care to children and their families.

Because we have access to specialists in more than 20 areas of pediatric medicine, we provide the most advanced care. The Pediatric Asthma Program is one example of how patients benefit from the close collaboration of physicians in the emergency department and other specialties. This asthma program, which is the first of its kind in the region to be awarded the Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Certification, assures that children admitted to the emergency department not only leave breathing easier – they are also given the tools, knowledge and medication to improve their long-term asthma control.

During a medical emergency, there is little time to consider where to take your sick child. Remember the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital is here for you and your family.

Learn more about the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital by visiting www.umm.edu/pediatrics.

Child Life Month

How Play is Helping UMMC’s Youngest Patients

By: Colleen Schmidt, System Communications Intern

As many parents know, the hospital can be a scary and unfamiliar place for a child. To help relax these fears, UMMC’s team of child life specialists and assistants use a variety of techniques to help children adjust to the hospital setting. Child life specialists, or CLS, aim to provide a positive and non-traumatic hospital experience for all patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.  UMMC’s Child Life team consists of six CLS and two assistants. They work in the Pediatric Progressive Care Unit (PPCU), Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Pediatric ER.

Members of the Child Life Team


Play is one technique often used by child life team to help normalize the child’s hospital experience.  Various types of play are thoughtfully used to help children meet developmental milestones, express emotions, and understand their medical situation.  For example, during a practice called medical play, a CLS will provide their patient with a “hospital buddy” or small doll that the child can decorate. Next, with the guidance of a CLS, the child is introduced to medical equipment that they can explore and use on their new hospital buddy.  According to Aubrey Donley, a CLS at the pediatric ER, medical play is helpful in addressing misconceptions the child has about medical equipment.

“It gives them a sense of control and mastery over their hospital experience and over what they’ve been through,” she explains. Medical play empowers patients and allows them to have an active role in their hospitalization. Helping the children understand their environment lessens the chances of confusing or traumatizing them.

In addition to medical play, the child life team uses therapeutic play to help children work through a variety of issues that may accompany hospitalization. Sometimes, children who are hospitalized have experienced severe trauma. Unlike adults, children may not be able to verbalize their feelings. Play is how they express themselves and work through their experiences. For instance, one of Donley’s young patients survived a house fire and used play to understand what happened to him. “He was running around in a fireman costume pretending to put out a fire. For an onlooker, it might seem like he was just playing but we understand he is trying to make sense of the chaos and trauma that he had witnessed,” she explained. Therapeutic play can also help children who are at the hospital for long periods of time meet their physical and cognitive milestones.

With backgrounds in child development, the child life team is able to make individual plans for each child that matches their medical, physical, and emotional needs.  The team advocates for the children they support, and work with an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals to provide a comprehensive plan for that child. Child life specialists also provide educational and emotional support for families. All services provided by the child life team come at no charge to families.

For more information on our child life services please visit: http://umm.edu/programs/childrens/services/inpatient/child-life

Healing with Baltimore

Following the events in Baltimore over the past week, UMMC and UMMC Midtown Campus President and CEO, Jeffrey A. Rivest, expressed his gratitude to all those UMMC employees who helped keep the Center’s mission in mind during such a difficult time. UMMC plays an integral role in the Baltimore community and will continue to work for the betterment of the city and the nation moving forward.

Read his message to all UMMC employees:

Dear Colleagues,

The past week is one we will never forget. Today, our city begins to recover and heal. But while we begin the healing process, let us not forget the valuable lessons we have learned about the need for all who live and work in our city to be partners for change.

FB-OneBaltimore_1While we begin a long healing process, let me thank you again for your unwavering dedication to our mission and to our role in supporting quality of life through taking care of people in their time of need. Many of our colleagues did not miss a single hour of work, despite their need to plan for the safety of their families. They faced difficulty in getting to and from work, and for some, there was no ability to reach their homes safely. Yet while the city was in crisis, each of you remained fully committed to the needs of our patients. Despite enormous challenges, we continued to operate all hospital services normally, and most importantly, were here for those in our community who needed us.

Our ability to stay united around the singular mission of caring, despite high emotions and differences of opinion, speaks to the core of who we are and what we do. I am grateful to each of you and I am inspired by your dedication to make life better for others. We are all fortunate to have this opportunity and once again, all here at UMMC showed tremendous teamwork, respect, civility and professionalism.

I also offer my sincere thanks to our hospital Security team and our Incident Command team who worked tirelessly for over six days to support all of us, keep us informed, and keep us safe. This team exemplifies professionalism, adaptability and a commitment to serve.

It is a new week in Baltimore. The city-wide curfew has been lifted, National Guard troops are phasing out, and we can be energized by the wonderful examples of love and community we witnessed in our city this weekend. This gives us hope. However, there is a long journey ahead, and many things in our culture must change–here in Baltimore and in our nation.

Later this week, I will provide you additional information about UMMC’s essential role in the recovery and the rebuilding of the fabric of our community. As one of Baltimore’s largest employers, we have been deeply involved in our community and its challenges and successes. We have all learned lessons this past week and together with others, UMMC will recommit to providing critical partnerships for job readiness, skill development, community health, and career opportunities. While we have done much, our city and our neighborhoods need much more. We must be a part of doing more and doing it better.


Thank you again for all you do here at UMMC.


Jeffrey A. Rivest
President and Chief Executive Officer

Coping with Code-Red Heat

With Code Red heat alerts extended through Tuesday and temperatures hitting 90 degrees and up, the heat can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. In the following news stories, University of Maryland Medical Center experts weigh in with their tips on how to deal with the hot weather.

UMMC Pediatrician Dr. Richard Lichenstein: How to know if the hot weather is making your kid sick, via ABC2NEWS.

UMMC Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Benjamin Lawner interviewed about heat symptoms on WJZ-TV.

Stay safe with hot weather health tips from UMMC Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Michael Witting, via WJZ-TV.

Heat draining your energy? UMMC nutritionist Lauren Silverman provides healthy snacking, via The Baltimore Sun.

UMMC nutritionist Anna Bondy reveals the secrets to healthy summer smoothies, from The Baltimore Sun.

Also check our UMMC Web site for more general tips and information:

 Summer Safety for Kids

The Dangers of Tanning

 Heat Emergencies





Two Stories From Haiti

By Chris Lindsley
Blog Editor

Wonder what the situation is like in Haiti? Two members of the first University of Maryland Medical Center team there to provide relief for earthquake survivors — surgical technologist Jake Smith and trauma anesthesiologist Cynthia Bucci, M.D., both with the UM Shock Trauma Center — share their experiences.

Jake Smith: “It’s rough down there. The people definitely need our help.”

Dr. Cynthia Bucci: “The conditions were devastating … it was very chaotic.”

More Staff Storm Stories: Just “Another Ordinary Day”

Editor’s Note: Below are two stories from staff about their experiences during the recent blizzards.

By Kathy Berge
Senior Occupational Therapist, Psychiatry

There have been many ordinary days in the midst of extraordinary circumstances due to the snow this year. Each storm has become a bit more challenging to navigate, but with a little thought and planning and several dedicated coworkers there was no disruption of Occupational Therapy services in Psychiatry. I can truthfully say that this experience has really made me take note of how our department exemplified the Commitment to Excellence (C2X) initiative and the “WE CARE” standards.

When the predictions were made for this last storm, we were all told to make our best effort to make it into work. After the 1st smaller storm of snow and ice transformed my just-shoveled walking path and road into a snow covered mess, I began to shovel again to prepare for the ride to work. I then set my alarm for 3:45 a.m. Driving 10 to 15 miles an hour for about 1½ hours, I was able to arrive to work safely and on time.

The next challenge was navigating from the garage to the hospital on foot through all the ice and snow. After watching my coworker fall and break her ankle the day before, I must admit that I was feeling a bit vulnerable. As I entered the turnstile door, I gave a sigh of relief and was greeted with a usual smile by security. “So good to see you,” he said. Just a reminder for me that this is another ordinary day in the midst of extraordinary circumstances, as I am typically greeted this way each day I arrive.

When I entered the units, I found life as usual and many familiar faces. People carried on with their jobs and worked as a well-oiled team to assure best patient care. I was thrilled when 3 others from my small department appeared from behind the white crystals that were adhered to their eyelashes, hair, coats and bags. You see, they walked to work through all the ice and snow, taking short breaks when they could no longer see due to the ice assaulting their face! What an incredible staff!!

Together we were able to strategize as to how to provide services for each patient attending in-patient and day-hospital programs with only 40% of our staff! All the services were provided as usual with no interruption in care. When our work was done, we were informed by our director that the governor declared a state of emergency and that we should make arrangements to stay at the Marriott. In appreciation for a job well done, our director paid for our rooms so that we would be safe and comfortable!

In the midst of my ordinary day, I realized that the extraordinary was not the snow but all the special and dedicated people that I work with, making UMMS my destination employer of choice.

By Lijie Wang, RN, BSN, CNII
Nurse on the Surgical Acute Care Unit

I would like to share my inspiration during the snow emergency.

Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Rowen really earned my respect. I was called to work in the first snow emergency because I live close to UMMC. On Saturday afternoon, Lisa showed up in our unit to make sure everything was fine and to thank us. I was extremely surprised to see her, and asked her how she came to work during the blizzard. She told me she stayed at UMMC on Friday night. Around 8 p.m., I went to pick up my food voucher and met her again in the learning center, where she was helping to arrange meals and lodging for others.

I was deeply inspired by Lisa. She not only motivates the nursing team to deliver the very best health care to our customers, creates a work environment that allows us to achieve goals like the Magnet Designation, and helps us advance care through innovative research and education, but most importantly, she leads the nursing team by example.

On Sunday, I was inspired again by another two leaders: [Director of Safety] Jim Chang and [Clinical Practice Coordinator] Michael Harrington. They came to our floor as volunteers to clean the trash from patients’ rooms due to the shortage of housekeepers. They demonstrated the values of respect, integrity, and service through leadership by example, especially in the crisis situation.

Thank you very much for Lisa Rowen, Jim Chang, and Michael Harrington for inspiring me.

Photos of UMMC During the Blizzards

Photos By Jim Chang
Director of Safety

Editor’s Note: These are photos of what was going on inside and outside the University of Maryland Medical Center during the past week, when two blizzards dropped more than 40 inches of snow on Baltimore.

More Reflections From Haiti: “I Fear for the Patients”

By Anthony Amoroso, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Editor’s Note: Dr. Amoroso was part of the first University of Maryland team to go to Haiti to provide medical care to earthquake survivors. The following is an excerpt of an e-mail he sent to his wife the day before leaving Haiti. Read Dr. Amoroso’s first Haiti blog post.

I’m going to try to get out tomorrow. A bit torn, patients have gotten word of our departure and getting a bit upset. Every day we make some improvements and it becomes a bit addictive. We worked late tonight doing what we can to make transition to incoming group. There are about 5 people staying on and another 10-15 coming tomorrow. We know every patient in the hospital and have a medical and surgical records on all of them. We only have a few backlog cases waiting the new team.

We leave with 5 functioning operating rooms, an organized stock room, almost automated lab, an admissions and discharge system, medical records, ambulatory appointment system, 6-bed trauma bay for wound care and fractures, community triage teams, some capacity for patient transport, beginnings of sanitation with port-a-pots finally arriving and medical waste and sharps disposal. We continue to struggle for beds, linens, crutches, flys, lack of misquito nets, human waste disposal and basic hygiene like toothpaste, soap, and shampoo.

From a medical standpoint the nature of the injuries — fractured legs, very large wounds, bone infections, kidney failure from crush, paralysis, dead limbs, and amputations — makes for long-term complicated problems.

My biggest frustration and anger lies in the entrenched backward and uncaring health system that permeates the hospital despite the fact that it is destroyed. It’s a real feat that it is running, and this only through the force of several external personalities. As these people leave I fear for the patients and know the volunteers will walk away frustrated.

The bigger picture remains far from over. There are hundreds of thousand homeless people living in squalid improvised camps throughout the city and region. Dysentery is picking up, and we saw the first cases of hepatitis A today. A cholera outbreak is easily feasible and would be devastating. How on earth the cleanup will commence and even come close to succeeding remains a mystery to me.

I’ve hit my wall, fatigued, with muscle and back pain. Chronic dehydration. Now with mouth sores. I have no more socks, underwear, or food. I guess it’s time to go home. It’s been an incredible experience. I’ll be back to see how this turns out.

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

UMMC CEO Thanks Staff for Dedication During Blizzards

By Jeffrey A. Rivest
UMMC President and Chief Executive Officer

February 10, 2010

Dear Colleague:

Early this morning I had the pleasure of visiting many of our patient care units and support departments to personally thank the hundreds of dedicated staff who have done heroic things for our patients during the past five days — through two record-breaking blizzards! I was moved by the positive energy and dedication of each staff member I saw. It was beyond description!

As we know, the University of Maryland Medical Center plays a vital role as an essential, tertiary level health care resource for the State of Maryland. Our eleven ICUs, Shock Trauma center, advanced diagnostic services, emergency services, and all of our patient care programs are essential, life-saving resources for our entire state. With this vital role comes the responsibility that, in times of crisis, we must continue to deliver the same high-quality service that is expected of us every day. This is what you’ve been doing, and I greatly appreciate your efforts.

I am proud to tell you that yesterday, as this second storm was beginning, UMMC and our fantastic teams cared for 119 admissions, along with hundreds of emergent visits and procedures. These patient volumes reflect a typical day for us. We didn’t skip a beat — thanks to you. It is truly amazing what can happen when talent, passion, and commitment come together through our special staff members to accomplish wonderful things.

The efficient patient flow has been possible because of the several hundred staff members who stayed at or close to the hospital to ensure their presence when needed. Last night we accommodated over 200 staff members in-house through sleeping arrangements in various locations including the hospital, Paca/Pratt building, and other non-clinical facilities. Hundreds more of our staff recognized the importance of remaining close and stayed at nearby hotels.

Our entire management team has been actively contributing, and we have a top-notch group of Directors and Managers running our Emergency Command Center. We are fully focused on maintaining a strong infrastructure of support for our physicians, nurses, technicians and all care providers. And let me add a special thanks to all of our valuable support staff –- you are doing a wonderful job of supporting our care providers so we can continue to provide excellent patient care.

Indicators show that, by tomorrow, we will begin coming out of this enormously challenging storm. With one last push to get through tonight, we should begin to see a return to what we consider to be “normal” business tomorrow.

Today, we can all be extremely proud of all staff and physician colleagues at UMMC. You are simply the best!


Jeffrey A. Rivest
President and Chief Executive Officer