Care everywhere: HCA Healthcare nurses share how they helped each other this past year

Group of nurses wearing personal protective equipment in hospital hallway
During COVID-19, HCA Healthcare nurses shifted from “business as usual” to caring in new ways. Pictured, nurses at North Florida Regional Medical Center continue to rally around their community and around each other to care for and heal those in need.

Nurses have always been the cornerstone of HCA Healthcare’s mission — Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life — but never has that been more evident than during the past year. As COVID-19 surged from coast to coast, HCA Healthcare nurses shifted from “business as usual” to caring in new ways and in new locations. From swabbing patients at drive-through testing sites to protecting fellow caregivers as hospital PPE Stewards – the care of our nurses was everywhere.

Now, as we celebrate National Nurses Week, May 6-12, we highlight a few of our inspiring nursing colleagues who went above and beyond while caring during COVID-19.

Serving where needed

During the pandemic, many were asked to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our nurses, however, continued to show up to their hospitals, and some even volunteered to leave their homes and loved ones to help in areas with an increasing number of coronavirus patients.

When Louisiana saw a surge in cases in April 2020, 200 HCA Healthcare nurses from the Kansas City area volunteered to help at sister facility Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans.

“For them to come out to us during the start of this pandemic and never have treated [COVID-19] before, I think they get a big ups to them, because that was a very scary situation that they signed themselves up for,” Tulane Medical Center nurse Katie New told CBS News.

Then, in November 2020, the Kansas City area started to see an increase in cases. Tulane Medical Center nurses returned the favor and spent the weeks around Thanksgiving at Research Medical Center.

“To be able to give them that relief that we know we received from them, it further locks in that nursing is a brother and sisterhood and I know that I chose the right profession,” New said.

Research Medical Center nurse Kylee Bolen added, “Having a group of people who were willing to drop everything and come help makes me so proud to work here.”

Group of nurses wearing face masks posing with sign that says Welcome Tulane RNs.
When COVID-19 hit New Orleans in March 2020, HCA Healthcare nurses from Kansas-City based HCA Midwest heroically raised their hands to join their fellow colleagues on the frontlines at sister hospital Tulane Medical Center in Louisiana. In November 2020, the New Orleans nurses returned the favor and provided support and assistance to caregivers at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri when the virus spiked in their region.

Cassie Champagne, a nurse at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, was one of the volunteers who originally traveled to New Orleans. She shared her experience with The Kansas City Star and discussed how nurses became family for their patients when visitor restrictions were put in place.

“You’re the only person that they have at that moment,” Champagne said. “It was kind of special, but it was also very overwhelming, and a heavy burden to bear — to feel like you’re the last person they might see.”

After returning to Kansas City, Champagne said she saw heroism every day.

“There’s not a single day that goes by on our shift that somebody doesn’t just blow my mind with something they do for a patient or the way they handle a situation,” Champagne said.

During summer 2020, another group of colleagues from HealthONE hospitals in Colorado volunteered to help in spots experiencing COVID-19 surges in Florida and Texas.

“It’s a team effort, and we have to be there to support one another,” Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children nurse Mary Cothren told CBS Denver.

Female nurse wearing personal protective equipment and giving thumbs up.
Danielle Van Komen, a family nurse practitioner with MountainStar Healthcare

As some nurses volunteered to help far away from home, others took on new roles at their own hospitals. Danielle Van Komen, a family nurse practitioner with MountainStar Healthcare’s Hyperbariac and Wound Care Center in Utah, was reassigned to the intensive care unit (ICU) and intermediate care unit (IMC) at affiliate Ogden Regional Medical Center during the pandemic. There she did everything from move beds to different floors and give patients their meals to help with IVs, vital signs and patient proning ꟷ anything her fellow nurses needed her to do.

“It was surreal being able to serve on the front lines, and at times it was extremely overwhelming,” Van Komen said. “My number one goal was to maintain a positive attitude the entire time. I knew the staff was exhausted, and if I could at least help keep the morale up, then I felt like I served my purpose. I give props to the staff that take care of these sick patients day in and day out, because it was not easy.”

“I am grateful for the opportunity I had to use my knowledge and skills to help those in need,” Danielle added.

Non-clinical nurses administer COVID-19 vaccines

Less than a year after the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., HCA Healthcare colleagues began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. It was a historic moment, one that our nursing leaders were eager to support. At a mass vaccination clinic that commenced with the emergency use authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020,  Jane Englebright, chief nurse executive and senior vice president for HCA Healthcare, put her scrubs back on to help administer vaccines. First in line to end the pandemic were TriStar Health colleagues working in the emergency department, ICU and COVID units – with vaccine recipients later expanding to community first responders, teachers and other colleagues.  HCA Healthcare’s clinical education department offered refresher training for nurses like Englebright who are no longer working at the bedside but wanted to help with vaccination efforts.

Female nurse administering COVID-19 vaccine.
Jane Englebright, chief nurse executive and senior vice president for HCA Healthcare, helps administer vaccines at a clinic for healthcare workers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sue Cadwell, assistant vice president of Women’s and Children’s Services, also administered vaccines during clinics at the HCA Healthcare corporate campus and at TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center in Tennessee. A former bedside nurse, Cadwell now supports our 186 hospitals and 2,000 sites of care from a seat on HCA Healthcare’s corporate campus. She says the experience of vaccinating others brought her back to her caregiving roots.

“I can’t even tell you how fulfilling it was to be performing such an important service for our colleagues and our community after a year of uncertainty,” Cadwell said. “We did some important things during the pandemic and shutdown, writing guidance for our caregivers, combing our professional organizations for new information and advice and fielding calls and emails from colleagues in our facilities seeking advice and guidance. But all of that pales in comparison to feeling like I was actually doing something  to help stop the spread of that virus and to give back to those folks who had worked so hard to take care of patients during that unprecedented time.”

Man and woman wearing face masks posing in front of large backdrop with images of healthcare workers.
Sue Cadwell, assistant vice president of Women’s and Children’s Services, and Bob Foster, vice president of Emergency Services, administer vaccines to HCA Healthcare colleagues.

To the thousands of other HCA Healthcare nurses not mentioned here: thank you for all you do for our patients, our communities and each other. Your inspiring work and ingenuity has led the way throughout the global pandemic.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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