Preplanning worked to keep facilities staffed due to Hurricane Sandy

    By John Grochowski
    Friday November 9, 2012

    Preparation key with Superstorm Sandy in Philadelphia region

    Philadelphia Tri-State nurses stay overnight at hospitals, help ease patients' anxieties.

    .....Throughout the region, nurses kept staffing levels up, many beating the storm by coming to their hospitals early and staying overnight. They did their part in easing patient anxieties as hospitals made accommodations, which included discharging patients who could go home and postponing surgeries.

    At Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., Diane Talarek, RN, MA, NE-BC, CNO, said the accommodations ensured space was available for injured patients if the emergency included fires, collapsed houses or other disasters. Likewise, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia kept the census low in anticipation of the storm, said Eleanor Gates, RN, MSN, vice president of surgical trauma and director of the emergency management center.

    "It does all come down to preplanning," Talarek said. "We do have emergency management meetings every two months, and you think, 'Gee, why are we doing this?' And the answer is-it's things like this. You hope that things that happened in New York never happen to you, but you never know. It's being able to execute a plan that you've talked about, and you practice it."

    For nurses, there's the added task of comforting patients and letting them know emergency preparations have been made.

    "Nurses did a really good job reassuring the patients," said Cheryl Littlefield, RN, CHEP, emergency management coordinator at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Del. "Monday evening [Oct. 29] was our worst time. We lost power for a split second. One of the feeds to the hospital from the town failed, but we have another feed from another place as well as our own generator. The engineering folks were wonderful. We have backups for the backups."...

    .....Communication remained important throughout the storm, with hospitals setting up command centers to coordinate. Gates said Jefferson posted messages on its GetWellNetwork and on its website, while Littlefield said communication at Beebe included sending faxes between stations.

    "We asked the nurses how communication was going and got really good feedback," Littlefield said. "One thing we did was to use our fax machines in-house to print information and post at the nurses' stations."...
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