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.