When COVID-19 began to spread, the hospitals that were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients needed reinforcements — both inside and outside of HCA Healthcare.
New York City was the virus’s epicenter in the U.S. With the number of cases increasing significantly throughout March and April, physicians and nurses from around the country made their way to New York to help. One of them was Westside Regional Medical Center ICU nurse Tammy Stimmerman.
Before leaving, Tammy made sure her Westside family in Plantation, Florida, was prepared to care for the COVID-19 patients they were receiving. With the support of her leadership team, Tammy arrived in New York, where she said there were some good days — when patients’ symptoms improved and she was able to connect them with loved ones through the phone.
“But then there are the heartbreaking days,” Tammy says, “where you allow the family to say goodbye to their loved one through FaceTime and all you can do is hold the person’s hand so they know someone is there.”
But that’s why Tammy chose to be an ICU nurse — to help patients in their greatest time of need.
“I’m doing what I love to do. I’m taking care of people who need me the most, and I’m there to help the struggling nurses who have been here since the beginning. I do what I do because I can,” she says.
Maria Ellis, assistant chief nursing officer at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, also served in New York beginning in early April. As a credentialed psychiatric nurse with the Navy Reserve, Maria was told to mobilize to the city, where she worked on the prone team, helping turn patients in their beds to the prone position (chest down) to help improve lung function, at the temporary care facility built at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
“They [HCA Healthcare] have been fully supportive and nothing but helpful during a stressful time,” Maria says. “The COVID-19 crisis has been eye-opening and clearly demonstrates how quickly diseases can spread. It’s been an unforgettable experience.”
Another military member of the HCA Healthcare family, Arielle Tango, was deployed to support COVID-19 testing sites in South Florida. The ER nurse from Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, and sergeant in the Florida National Guard established procedures, trained service members on personal protective equipment (PPE) and helped create a process for data collection.
“Being able to make a difference and to protect the general public and our soldiers is everything to me,” Arielle told the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) in March 2020.
And when New Orleans experienced a surge in COVID-19 patients, 200 nurses from HCA Healthcare facilities in the Kansas City area volunteered to help at sister facility Tulane Medical Center. For Tulane nurse Cabrina Ridley, it was reinvigorating to see reinforcements arrive.
“It showed us that we are being supported and everybody is in this together,” Cabrina says. “There’s no need to feel exhausted anymore because help is actually here.”
Months later, when the Kansas City area started to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, Tulane Medical Center nurses returned the favor and made their way to Kansas City to offer their support at Research Medical Center, where they were greeted with signs, cheers and elbow bumps.
“Having a group of people who were willing to drop everything and come help makes me so proud to work here.”