Nurse Talk

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Sandy Cayo, RN, DNP, is vice president of clinical performance and transformation at the New Jersey Hospital Association. A family nurse practitioner, she holds a doctorate degree in nursing practice and is completing her PhD in nursing research. Prior to joining NJHA, she served as clinical assistant professor at NYU.


Hospital Week 2021: Recalling Moments That Matter

By Cathy Bennett

The annual observance of Hospital Week kicked off last Sunday – Mother’s Day. I joke sometimes that moms and hospitals have a lot in common: You might not appreciate them on a daily basis, but when something goes wrong, you sure are glad they’re there for you.

At no time has that been more true than during this pandemic. Each day, the state reports how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, how many are in the ICU and how many have been discharged home (that last one totals roughly 70,000 people.) We often seem to measure impact by numbers, but for Hospital Week 2021, I can’t help but reflect more on the moments – moments that tell the story of our hospitals in ways numbers on a dashboard cannot.

Last spring, when COVID was raging in all regions of the state, there were times when some hospitals were frighteningly close to running out of the essential supplies and equipment they needed to care for patients. Ventilators, used to help the most critically ill COVID patients breathe, were in serious shortage. You might expect that a hospital would hold tight to such scarce equipment. But instead, what I witnessed among New Jersey’s hospitals was a level of shared commitment and cooperation that was unprecedented. One evening – the middle of the night, actually – one of New Jersey’s hospitals had run out of ventilators. A call went out among area hospitals. CEOs who normally are competitors offered to share ventilators from their limited supplies, and by dawn those ventilators were transferred from one hospital to another, under police escort, to ensure that not a single patient would go without the critical treatment they needed.

And when it looked like we might run out of hospital beds, it seemed like it took but a moment for hospitals’ facility teams to transform cafeterias and conference rooms into new patient units.

I remember the very first donation we received of cloth face masks sewn by members of the community. And the phone calls – so many of them – from restaurants and businesses wanting to donate meals and other daily comforts to the healthcare teams working tirelessly to save lives.

Moments matter. They can be noisy and joyful like the cheers and applause when hospital team members said farewell to patients who were successfully discharged to their homes and families.  Or they can be private and profound, like a hospital caregiver holding the hand of a COVID patient taking those last labored breaths, conveying the unspoken message, “You are not alone.”

In these moments, and so many others each and every day, hospitals don’t just dispense healthcare. They dispense caring.

Hospital Week overlaps with Nurses Week and Skilled Nursing Care Week, a convergence that recognizes the essential role each plays in taking care of the people of our state. I hope you’ll join me in taking an “appreciation pause” this week for these providers who are always present for us, even if we don’t always take a moment to recognize it.

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