Last weekend, BCH provided an email update to community members relating
our health system's ongoing preparations against COVID-19. On Saturday,
April 11, CEO & President Rob Vissers, M.D., stated there have been
indications that our community's ongoing efforts to flatten the COVID-19
curve — wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and constant
hand washing — appear to be working as hoped.
From Rob Vissers, M.D. - CEO & President, BCH
Unfortunately, we all see the reports of the pandemic engulfing other parts
of our nation. I want to assure you that BCH is continuing to actively
prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients expected to come our way. In
addition to the rigorous planning BCH has undertaken to expand our number
of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators, we've been making
complementary plans to maximize the impact of our human resources.
Hoping for the Best, but Preparing for the Worst
We quickly recognized there were key areas that would need additional staff
during a surge of COVID-19 patients. This led to the hiring of 20 new
respiratory therapists. We also began to shift personnel to some of these
higher need areas, such as asking experienced physicians normally in our
primary care clinics to move to our Urgent Care Centers or to work as
hospitalists at Foothills Hospital.
At the same time, we began an in-depth review of the collective skill set
within our organization to determine how we could shift doctors, nurses
and other staff to where they can make the biggest impact if BCH experiences
a surge of critically ill patients.
If we get a wave of COVID-19 patients, we'll move some of our physicians
with the most experience in caring for critically ill patients —
trauma surgeons, anesthesiologists and emergency medicine specialists
— into new roles within Foothills Hospital. For example, anesthesiologists,
who have significant expertise in ventilator management but normally spend
their workdays in surgery, can provide invaluable expertise on an inpatient
critical care unit.
We have another tremendous resource in our large group of physicians who
received their medical degree in internal medicine but then pursued advanced
training in a "subspecialty" such as cardiology. Before they
became subspecialists, these doctors received extensive education in treating
the pulmonary issues common among COVID-19 patients. We're currently
giving some of these physicians quick refreshers on those elements of
critical care, as well as instruction on unique treatments for COVID-19.
BCH has also set up a volunteer pool of physicians, physician assistants
(PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and registered nurses (RNs) —
some retired, others who fill in for our providers on a temporary basis
— willing to step up and fill any gaps in care. To ensure safe and
effective care, they would be paired with one of our in-house expert practitioners.
Where We've Already Shifted Into Action
Some of the operational changes we made in response to COVID-19 gave us
the opportunity to retrain and reassign highly trained and experienced
nurses for new roles that will be pivotal in our ability to respond to
the pandemic. We've already retrained and reassigned 275 nurses and
nurses' aides. By the end of next week, this number will increase
to 350 employees ready for redeployment. All reassigned employees have
completed multiple rotations on their new nursing units, enabling them
to learn, practice and gain competence and confidence in their different roles.
A prime example of this important process occurred when BCH suspended all
non-urgent, elective surgical procedures in response to the outbreak.
Teams of highly skilled, highly specialized nurses who normally worked
in surgery were retrained to safely care for patients in our ICU. As another
example, several nurses working in our Information Technology Department
who have been away from direct patient care for years are now being reoriented
to care for patients with less serious medical issues.
In addition, we're fleshing out highly detailed plans for maximizing
the expertise of our "expert" ICU RNs — those who have
completed the rigorous critical care training process and have many years
of experience in the ICU. We normally have one expert RN caring for two
ICU patients. If our patient volumes increase dramatically during a COVID-19
surge, those experts will be teamed with two very skilled nurses redeployed
from other areas, along with an experienced nurse's aide. This additional
support will allow one expert RN to take care of six ICU patients instead
of just two.
Finally, BCH's leadership team continues to run through contingency
plans for teaming physicians, PAs, NPs, RNs and health care support professionals
for worse-case patient-load scenarios.
Support for Those Dedicated to This Mission
At a time when we're calling on so many nurses and physicians to take
on different roles and responsibilities, their cooperation, leadership
and teamwork have truly been phenomenal. Members of Team BCH are pouring
their heart and soul into the mission of caring for our sickest patients
and getting our community through this pandemic.
We also are taking new steps to support employees across our organization
during this stressful time. BCH has expanded our support services for
employees, which range from wellness offerings to emotional and financial
support. Examples include:
• Weekly livestreamed meetings with BCH leadership
• Financial support for employees needing childcare services
• Call-in support groups
• Yoga and mindfulness sessions
• Free meals in the Foothills Hospital cafeteria
Benefiting from Community Support
Local residents and businesses have been doing their part to help our physicians
and employees push through these tough times and emerge even stronger.
We are heartened by the outpouring of support, acts of generosity and
messages of gratitude. They are and will be powerful encouragements for
our BCH family as we continue to battle COVID-19.
For more information about COVID-19 and BCH-related updates, please visit our
COVID-19 Resources page.