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Our Care

Volunteer Spirit

December 04, 2017

Employees head for hurricane-stricken areas, donate PTO and funds to help colleagues

relief nurses

HCA Healthcare’s size and scale are a tremendous asset when a disaster threatens its facilities. The organization knows how to ensure hospitals are not only well-prepared with supplies, but also with team members so those affected can continue to provide the best patient care. When hurricanes were bearing down on Texas and Florida, the HCA Healthcare family, with coordination and support by corporate leadership through funds and resources, took decisive action even before the wind and rain hit. From hundreds of employees volunteering to travel to the affected areas, to donations of PTO or Hope Fund contributions, employees stepped up in every way possible to help their colleagues.

Coordinating Staff and Volunteer Corps

HCA Healthcare was prepared to provide aid in the form of relief workers so that affected employees could go home to check on their residences and families.

“We actually began to mobilize a week before the storms,” says Brendan Courtney, President and Chief Executive Officer of HealthTrust Workforce Solutions, an HCA Healthcare affiliate and workforce strategies provider.

“We were able to get nurses ready so that we could get them into Houston, and then Florida, as quickly as possible. We had a combination of HCA Healthcare nurses who had volunteered, as well as HealthTrust nurses who were willing to go in, and their willingness meant that nurses in those facilities got the support they needed.”

HCA Healthcare and HealthTrust mobilized relief stations in Dallas, and then drove nurses to hospitals in Houston. In Florida, plans kept shifting as the storm swerved and its landfall remained unclear, but staff was at the ready regardless. Between the two hurricanes, more than 500 employee and contract nurses were sent to help, all coordinated by HealthTrust.

“We became the conduit for any employee who wanted to volunteer, any nurse who went online and expressed an interest,” Courtney says. “There were almost 1,000 nurses alone, plus IT, and almost every other type of position.”

West Valley Medical Center volunteer nurses

The tireless work of supply-chain employees and many others is also being acknowledged and assessed so that their vital roles can be supported more fully if and when another major weather event or other disaster hits any HCA Healthcare facility or group of facilities, says John Steele, senior vice president of the Human Resources Group.

“HCA Healthcare is very good at adopting lessons learned very quickly after an event, or events, like this,” he says. “We work to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to provide support, and also to share information across the organization very quickly. We hope there is no next time, but if there is one, we want to be even better in supporting our employees and caring for our patients.”

HCA Healthcare’s MountainStar Healthcare in Utah Deploys Teams to Florida and Texas to Relieve Colleagues

Six volunteers from Timpanogos Regional Hospital flew to Florida just before Hurricane Irma hit, leading the way for others who would follow in the days after. They got there just in time — nurse Ally Okazaki was working the night shift in the general medical unit at Osceola Regional Hospital in Kissimmee as the category 4 hurricane hit.

“You could hear it shaking the windows and shaking the doors, and the leaks springing out every once in a while,” says Okazaki.

“There were ceiling tiles that were saturated with water. The one by the nurse’s station totally broke open.”

Okazaki said she never felt unsafe in the hospital and that hospital workers and patients endured the storm well. Floridians, she said, didn’t seem too fazed by the hurricane.

“It wasn’t scary. I never felt like I was in danger in the hospital,” she relayed in an interview. “The people here, they could potentially have families, insurance claims, and family members they need to attend to. We’re here and our families are all safe and sound back home and we can just focus on the work.”

All told, MountainStar sent 30 caregivers to help with Harvey and Irma relief efforts.

When Ogden Regional Medical Center nurse Shawna Crane was deployed to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson, Fla., the community suffering she witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma was immense. Nurses had been working four to five shifts in a row, sleeping onsite to ensure patients got needed care.

“It’s been so nice to come here and help give the regular staff a break so they can go home and rest,” Crane says. “The best part is that we have each other.”

MountainStar chief nursing executive Jennifer Wagenaar told local media she was proud of the outpouring of volunteers choosing to help peers in the affected areas.

“Their willingness to put their lives on hold in order to meet a critical need for medical care and support their HCA Healthcare family is quite remarkable,” Wagenaar says.

Volunteers from MountainStar included nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, technicians, behavioral health specialists and hospital administrators.