Two years ago at this time, our organization was planning to open a new hospital. Part of the planning process included planning to move up to 200 patients from the hospital that was closing to the new hospital in a single day. To plan for this day, we decided to treat it as an emergency hospital evacuation. Preparation included several tabletop drills and three live drills. And on move day we successfully moved over 150 patients in under 4 hours without one single adverse event. I'm incredibly proud of how our staff worked together to safely move all those patients.
This experience made me appreciate and admire nurses and other staff at New York University's Langone Medical Center all the more. In the middle of superstorm Sandy, which rocked the New York and New Jersey coastal areas on October 29, more than 200 patients had to be evacuated from the lower Manhattan hospital. NYU Langone's move took place in the dark without any elevators after the backup generator failed due to flooding. Critical care patients had to be carried down the steps and manually ventilated, not an easy task.
Few of us have ever simulated a situation like this, and some very quick decisions had to be made about how to actually get these patients down the steps. NYU Langone's smallest and most fragile patients were their NICU babies—20 critically ill newborns who needed to be taken down nine flights of stairs. That's when we saw the nurses kick into action. One nurse suggested taking the babies down in a warming pad, in the arms of a single nurse to keep them safe and warm, while other staff carried the necessary equipment around the nurse. And all of us probably remember the image of the NICU nurse on the stretcher cradling and manually ventilating an 8-hour-old baby. This image let the world see just how important nurses are in delivering care to patients.
Acts of heroism? Some would consider them so. But I'm confident that every nurse would have done exactly the same thing given the situation. The end result was all the patients were safely transferred to other facilities. So here's a shout-out to each one of those nurses and all the nurses in the five other New York and New Jersey hospitals that had to evacuate patients because of Sandy.
Nursing2013 Critical Care would like to share more of these stories with our readers and in doing so celebrate the wonderful things that nurses are doing every day. You can share your stories with us by submitting them to http://www.lwwesubmissions.com (be sure to click the link for Nursing2013 Critical Care journal).
Until the next time, be healthy, be happy, be great advocates for your patients, and send us your stories!
AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, RN, APN-BC