How a new team delivers hope to COVID-19 patients at Northwell Health
Northwell Health has taken action to find ways that help deliver exceptional care to its patients affected by COVID-19. As many healthcare organizations search for ways to improve patient outcomes during this difficult time, Northwell has trained and equipped its teams to do that and more. One example of this is the formation of its Prone Teams.
Proning is a technique used to help patients breathe easier by changing their body position. As most patients rest on their backs while in the care of nursing staff, the Prone Team carefully places COVID-19 patients on their stomachs, allowing more air into the body and increasing oxygen levels into the lungs. As this technique is used in the operating room on a daily basis for certain surgical procedures, our Perioperative teams were chosen to help spearhead Prone Teams across the organization.
Comprised of perioperative RNs, surgical technologists, perioperative assistants, and physical therapists, our Prone Teams worked to safely turn and position patients into both the prone and supine positions and trained other team members on proper positioning. Implementing this new team during the COVID-19 crisis has proven how Northwell can meet even the biggest challenges with innovative thinking and utilize all team members’ skills to provide care.
Meet some of the team members from the Prone Team making a difference every day.
At Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJMC), the Prone Team features Christina Raccasi, an RN who joined Northwell as a graduate in 2018 and is currently a perioperative registered nurse. While new experiences always have initial challenges, Christina quickly overcame it due to the support and environment she works in. She states, “Caring for patients in a way that was outside of my comfort zone and training was a scary thought at first, but since many of the Prone Team members are from the operating room, we felt confident in our established teamwork as we work together so regularly.” Beyond just positioning, the Prone Team members deliver care in other ways outside of their usual scope in the OR, helping to protect patients with padding for bony prominences, lip moisturizer, and skin barrier cream.
Joined with Christina in the fight against COVID-19 is Dolores Reisert, Senior Administrative Director II of Perioperative Services, who helped form LIJMC’s Prone Team and shares the same sentiment. She states, “The teamwork among the perioperative and the ICU units is so inspiring and I am so proud of how this team was developed and trained so quickly. The Prone Team has been an asset in this important endeavor in trying to help our patients fight this terrible virus to aid them in the road for recovery.” Dolores joined LIJMC in 2015 with over 32 years of Perioperative experience, and even still, she is able to find more ways to advance her career and develop as a leader within her practice at Northwell. Today, she presently oversees six areas at LIJMC, the Operating Room, ASU, PACU, Endoscopy, Surgical Annex, and Central Sterile and has proven to be an incredible asset to the teams under her leadership.
Over at Huntington Hospital, OR Supervisor Jose Gonzalez’s leadership has proven itself to be equally as valuable to the Prone Team he oversees. While Jose’s usual day-to-day means ensuring the operating room runs smoothly, he stepped up to help lead Huntington’s Prone Team and trained additional team members to support the team and ensure it was running Monday through Sunday. His know-how made him a perfect leader for the team, and much like Dolores and Christina, the experience he brings to the room is what gives Northwell so much confidence in its ability to come out on top of this pandemic. “It’s a surreal feeling walking into these units and being thanked by the ICU team members who work tirelessly around the clock with critical COVID positive patients,” he says. He adds, “My team and I have been honored to be able to help our patients. Even though our patients are vented and may never get to know who we are, they have become our family.”
Each of these members play a role that, at the top of the year, they had no idea they’d be playing. Yet, because of their commitment to care, they have adapted and discovered new skills within their fields that will help heal our communities and bring new hope to the patients that entrust Northwell Health with their lives.
Delivering moments of peace on the front line with Tranquility Tents
As the rest of the nation stayed home to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, our healthcare heroes at Northwell Health continued to come in each day, fighting against the outbreak on the front lines of our hospitals. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to keeping our communities healthy had them delivering compassionate care, no matter the circumstances.
Seeing firsthand the tireless work of our team members, Northwell leadership immediately understood the importance of reflecting that same compassion back to our team members to meet their mental, physical and emotional needs. Working in health care, so much of your day can be devoted to giving to others and forgetting to take time for yourself. Our Employee Engagement team partnered with Human Resources, Wellness, Chaplaincy and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) teams across our health system and created Tranquility Tents at all of our hospitals to give team members a place to press pause.
These Tranquility Tents are designated spaces for our team members to find moments of peace and reflection, to recharge as they continue to push through these days to care for patients who need it the most. Beyond offering respite, these centers provide access and information for all the resources Northwell has to support them through this unprecedented time. Whether it’s a tired nurse looking for a quick recipe to make dinner after a long shift or a team member in need of 1:1 counseling with a behavioral health representative after a loss of a patient, Northwell’s Tranquility Tents have what they need.
EAP members are on site to help team members talk through what emotional support they might need along with providing printouts of the diverse resources offered. Wellness posters provide new tips each week including meditation guides, recipes and stretching suggestions to ensure our team members are taking care of themselves physically as well as emotionally. The Chaplaincy team performed blessing of the hands, hosted prayer circles, and created prayers and messages to deliver words of encouragement and to connect with team members spiritually.
“The Tranquility Tent started as an idea and a vision from our corporate HR partners and has truly taken on a life of its own in terms of providing emotional, mental, physical and spiritual support for our healthcare heroes,” says Lisa Khavkin, VP of Human Resources at Huntington Hospital. “They have become a place our team can rely on to find a shoulder to cry on, a place to pray, to stretch, listen to music, or paint a stone to memorialize their feelings. While the journey is still ahead of us all, the tranquility tent has become a place of solace and healing.”
Along with support resources, our Tranquility Tents also offer opportunities for team members to take self-care moments. From hiring a barber to give haircuts to arranging for live music to be played, our Tranquility Tents are becoming safe havens for team members to feel good together.
Other activities at the tents may include:
Gratitude Rock Gardens: a therapeutic exercise for team members to reflect on what they’re thankful for during this time, memorializing their thoughts and gratitude while painting rocks to add to the site garden.
Nametag Making Stations: where team members can design their own nametags to help bring a human element back to their personal protective equipment (PPE).
Message of Hope Boards: a reflective exercise for team members to add inspirational messages while reading the heartfelt sentiments other team members have left behind.
Color by Number Art Installations: that are allowing our Northwell team to ‘leave their mark’ by coloring in this interactive art piece. This small moment of art therapy will also transition into a lasting legacy of the impact they’ve had as the art is displayed at each site upon completion.
As we move forward as an organization from fighting against COVID-19 to recovery, these spaces will transform to continue to provide the resources our team needs. “Tranquility spaces will become permanent places within our facilities to enhance the recovery and resilience of our team members. We must continue to adapt our offerings to meet the needs of our team members” says David Gill, AVP of the HR Employee Experience team. As part of this commitment to support, a well-being survey was sent to all our team members to gain insight on what they need not just today, but in the future. This feedback is being utilized by a well-being work group that will continue to evolve the resources available to ensure our organization feels engaged and together.
Though our team members are facing an unprecedented battle on the front lines, we know that we can heal and move forward to a brighter future Truly Together.
Five reasons why you should choose a Perioperative career at Northwell Health
Perioperative services at Northwell Health are growing fast, and with growth comes a wide range of career opportunities. For qualified nurses looking to enter the field, perioperative careers offer a unique chance to be hands-on and collaborate with other dedicated health care professionals working together to have a direct impact on the lives of their patients. While there are many reasons for joining Northwell in a perioperative career, we’ve provided five reasons why this path is a great decision for anyone looking to make an impact in nursing.
You’ll learn new skills with the most innovative technologies.
As new technologies emerge and the need for more advanced care grows, Northwell provides many opportunities to learn new skills, utilizing state-of-art-technology so perioperative nurses can ensure the highest quality of care for their patients. The latest technology can improve outcomes with greater precision and less invasive procedures, and therefore, increase recovery times, especially in robotic surgery, which has become a trusted method for many of our surgical procedures including cardiac, GYN, ENT, thoracic, neurosurgery, heart and liver transplants, and many more.
Your skills and knowledge will grow along with your career opportunities.
At Northwell Health, perioperative nurses have access to unlimited clinical resources and educational opportunities designed to help them advance their careers. Nurses can engage in peer learning, career progression and certification programs that encourage their growth and provide support at every level in their journey. Just ask Karen Rowan, MSN, NPD-BC, CNOR, director of System Perioperative Education at Northwell. As an RN in the operating room, she was happy in her career, but she felt there was more she could do. She wanted to use her skills to teach so when the opportunity presented itself to be a clinical nurse educator, she took it.
Making a move into an educator position presented her with opportunities that would prove to be a catalyst in her success. “This position allowed me to participate in leading the OR fellowship, orientation program and simulations,” she says. Northwell also gave her the opportunity to present two podium presentations at two national conferences. “I have the opportunity to share my passion of perioperative nursing with nursing students,” she says. It’s not only the students who benefit from Karen’s passion, the OR Fellowship is a great opportunity for both new grad nurses and floor nurses looking to get into perioperative careers. And the patients do as well, making her career journey even that much more rewarding. Karen and her Corporate Perioperative Education team continue to build unique educational opportunities and experiences for new and existing perioperative nurses
You’re Made for delivering award-winning care.
Year after year, Northwell Health is recognized for the care our team delivers to patients. Northwell was the first in the nation to receive the Network of Excellence in Robotic Surgery designation from Surgical Review Corporation. Our cardiac surgery programs have been ranked by the Department of Health (DOH) among the best in New York State with cardiology programs being recognized by Healthgrades as America’s 100 best heart programs. And beyond the award-wining care for our patients is the award-winning care for our team members! This year, Northwell ranked as one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®,” the only health care provider in New York State to do so in 2020.
You’ll have strength in numbers. Teamwork is what we’re all about.
No matter the discipline, each role within Northwell’s organization works together to accomplish the same goal, to redefine health care. You’ll gain support across a collaborative network of team members, from surgical technologists and registered nurses to physicians, physician assistants, anesthesiologists, CRNAs, and even central sterile processing technicians. The dedicated team’s combined experience means the delivery of groundbreaking outcomes for each patient that comes through the doors, and you’ll play a vital role.
Your career will be guided and supported by leaders who inspire your success.
As Kelly Cifu, MSN, RN, and Vice President of System Perioperative Services, explains, “The perioperative leaders at Northwell are committed to continual improvement, teamwork, achievement, and obtaining the best results possible for our patients.” The result of that is double fold as it also impacts the careers of those delivering care. Take Kelly for example. She started her career 15 years ago in the operating room and today she oversees 18 perioperative sites within our network. During her career journey, she gained critical support and mentorship from her leaders who created a trusting, collaborative environment that positioned her for success.
Emergency room nurse helps patients recovering from COVID-19 feel right at home
When you think of excellent patient care, endless opportunities, and extraordinary teamwork, Northwell comes to mind. Ashley Sells, a registered nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital in the Emergency Room, exemplifies all of these qualities. She continually practices outstanding patient care and teamwork and especially during the critical times of COVID-19. It is during this time where Ashley went above and beyond for our recovering patients to help them feel at home by starting a “Pick-Me-Up-Pillow” fundraiser.
Ashley’s career journey
Ashley started her nursing career with Northwell eight years ago at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJMC) as a medical surgical nurse, where she served for one year before transferring into the Emergency Room fellowship. Ashley spent two years at LIJMC there before transferring to Lenox Hill. “It was always a dream of mine to live in New York City and work in an ER and Lenox Hill was my ultimate goal,” she says.
Throughout her years at Northwell, Ashley has made a positive impact on leaders and team members as her career has developed. “I am proud to work for an organization that promotes self-growth. Personal input and ideas are always welcome, and leadership continues to assist on any way that they can,” she says. Ashley’s favorite thing about working in emergency medicine is that there always is the ‘unknown’ factor and an element of surprise. She states that, “Every day is a new day, a new learning opportunity. As a nurse, I am challenged each day that I step into work.”
Putting patients first always
During COIVD-19, Ashley took the initiative to raise money selling pillows to help patients feel as comfortable as possible while on the road to recovery. She was inspired by an unfortunate situation when her colleague was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was then admitted into the hospital. She wanted her colleague to feel as much like home as possible while recovering, even down to the pillow she was using. That prompted Ashley to bring her two of her own pillows.
“A simple pillow made her day!” Ashley says. After her colleague was discharged, she donated the two pillows to another patient who was in need. “After recognizing that a pillow could put a smile on a patient’s face, I developed the “Pick-Me-Up-Pillow” fundraiser in hopes that every patient could have the same opportunity to have a comfortable pillow while fighting COVID-19,” she says.
“We often say that the little things make the biggest difference,” Ashley says. Ashley’s fundraiser has raised $5,000, enabling her to purchase 1,200+ pillows that were delivered to Lenox Hill Hospital patients. “This initiative has made me feel proud. This is something that I was personally able to accomplish because of the generosity of others,” Ashley says.
Ashley’s work embodies the Truly Compassionate care that Northwell values. “The outpouring of support our community has shown during this time has been so valued by the Northwell staff. The endless food donations, the letters of encouragement, the 7 PM clap has truly helped to motivate and inspire our team,” says Ashley.
Ashley is a healthcare hero, showcasing her willingness to go above and beyond for our patients. Are you Made for nursing careers? Join our team of heroes.
Marianna Vasquez, MSN, RN, NE-BCI, began her Northwell Health career at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJMC) as a medical/surgical registered nurse. From there she grew her skills, both clinically by working as an ICU/CCU nurse, and as a leader. At LIJMC, Marianna felt empowered as a nurse to embrace her leadership skills and encouraged to develop as she progressed from assistant nurse manager to nurse manager and into director roles.
Through the years, she oversaw multiple areas of specialty, which gave her the confidence and knowledge to be ready for the next opportunity. She became Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Plainview Hospital in 1998, and added the title ofCNO of Syosset Hospital in 2003. As CNO of both hospitals, Marianna continues the Northwell spirit of empowering her nurses, “To this day, I learn something new daily and am always inspired by our staff.”
Read more from our CNO Corner interview with Marianna.
1. What makes working in a community hospital unique?
Having many years of experience in a tertiary hospital, I thought the community hospital might present different opportunities and challenges. Both were true! Our connection to the community and each other is tangible. Many of the staff feel like family, and in a smaller community setting everyone knows your name. Many of our team members are also members of our community, so Plainview or Syosset Hospital is their family’s hospital.
2. What exciting initiatives are planned for Plainview and Syosset Hospitals in 2020 and beyond?
Plainview and Syosset Hospitals are currently on the Magnet® journey. Creating a healthy work environment where staff can be empowered to achieve their professional goals is part of the Patient Care Services strategic plan. Through frontline leadership at the bedside initiating and driving practice change, our nurses as well as our patients and their families benefit.
In 2021, we are also anticipating the opening of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Plainview Hospital. Construction and planning is underway currently and positions have been posted internally for ED and Critical Care nurses to apply. As part of their transition, these nurses will undergo 16 weeks of education to prepare for our first cases. This is an example of how staff have career mobility while remaining at a community hospital. The entire hospital is energized by the Cath Lab opening, and the ICU, ED and eventually telemetry services will be impacted by the new program.
Syosset Hospital continues to provide world class orthopedic care and they are Joint Commission certified in knee, hip and spine surgery. These achievements exemplify the high level of excellent care provided at Syosset Hospital.
3. What are some ways nurses at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Plainview and Syosset Hospital nurses are “Made for this” and the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic has only shined a spotlight on essential workers. We’ve seen our nurses demonstrate their caring, compassionate and competent care like never before. Regardless of how weary they might be, they still rally for their colleagues and patients. Some nurses have also taken the time to connect patients and families via FaceTime, which is an especially vital form of communication with visitors currently not allowed at the hospitals.
4. How do Plainview and Syosset Hospitals support their team in growth and development?
Northwell Health has two great resources: The Institute for Nursing and the Center for Learning and Innovation. These institutions offer orientation and new programs on getting education for self-development. In addition, team members receive continuing education days to utilize for conferences and online learning. Plainview and Syosset Hospitals also have access to our own on-site SIM lab which we use for nursing education and in collaboration with the Medical residency staff. All of these opportunities are sought after and encourages our nurses to participate.
5. What makes Northwell Health a great place to work?
At Northwell Health, excellence has no finish line, and as a result we attract professionals who are committed to innovation and execution of best practices. Elevation of one’s practice to improve the life of those we serve is valued.
Written by: Cassidy Toben, Assistant Nurse Manager, Emergency Department, Lenox Hill Hospital
Northwell Health is proud to spotlight our front line health care workers. See how Northwell clinicians – doctors and nurses – are responding and working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.Read their stories here.
Cassidy Toben, RN, finds a new niche as COVID-19 forces health care workers to shift roles
As an assistant nurse manager, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to inspire and motivate our nurses and staff, really coach them through their nursing journey. And during theCOVID-19 crisis, my role has shifted, transitioning into even more administrative responsibilities.
I’m not always in the rooms with COVID patients, and there’s a sense of guilt that comes with that. Togetherness and camaraderie are built within nurses. It’s our calling — caring for another as if we are the patients we are restoring to health. Leading my team is also a calling, one that I’ve relished during this situation.
Since COVID-19 reached our doors atLenox Hill Hospital, we’ve bundled care, limiting the number of people and trips in and out of patient rooms. What you might do in a few trips, you do all at once now.
On tough days, and there have been many, one of my nurses will need me to serve as a sounding board to vent about harrowing experiences, or to cry with them about a lost patient. Being this support system is critical to their well-being. We all share the burden and have a stake in this.
I went into nursing to save lives and to help people. But, you realize quickly that you can’t save everybody. That’s really humbling.
The scariest day during this experience came at the end of March.New York was just hitting its peakand COVID-19 patients arrived at alarming rates. One patient was talking to us and seemed pretty stable. About an hour later he coded. Everybody ran to his bedside. Then about 10 minutes after that, a patient on the other side of the emergency department coded — everyone ran to that bedside.
Then a third patient needed resuscitation.
I took a step back and, while watching every one race to the bedside, thought to myself, “Wow, the teamwork here is really inspirational.” The compassion that they showed to the patients, to each other, it eased my fears that day. We have each other’s backs and we support each other. We take care of our patients and we go home. Most of us go home alone. We don’t get to hug our parents. We don’t get to see our families. So, we’re really in this together.
But worry does come over the staff. Patients begin to remind you of your family — many times you’re acting as their family, with visitation suspended in hospitals. And then you worry about your own family, and then yourself.
My first symptoms started on March 26, a curious cough that would lead into fatigue and shortness of breath. My husband and I decided it would be safer to stay together than risk exposing anybody else in my family. Still, the thought of getting him sick caused so much anxiety that I started having nightmares. I dreamt that I got him sick and he was dying, because that’s what we were seeing each day. And any health care worker can tell you that they have that exact same fear. It’s not about me. I can handle me. But I don’t want to hurt the people I love.
After two weeks of being ill, I returned to work. I still struggle to sleep, but now it’s our patients that I worry about. It’s also really rewarding to see that our staff has risen above a lot of the challenges, remaining positive at every corner. So, even on days when I’m operating on little sleep, I come into work feeling like we can succeed. We are together and we’re going to get through it.
Luckily, the situation has improved — the volume in the emergency department has slowed. People are staying home, and we’re now on the right part of the curve. Devastation has turned into hope. We’ve lost a tremendous amount, people we know, grandparents, friends. So, we must remember those who are lost and work through each day with positivity.
In a time where it’s hard not to think about yourself and your family and worry about getting sick, people are still thinking about each other here. That is just absolutely incredible. It makes it all worthwhile, providing purpose and an unrelenting desire to help another.
That’s what nursing is truly about.
Cassidy Toben, RN, is an assistant nurse manager in Lenox Hill Hospital’s emergency department.
Written by: Colleen Conaty BSN, RN-BC, Float Team, North Shore University Hospital
Behind the Mask: Working as a Float RN during the COVID-19 pandemic
Being clinical professionals, we were excited and honored to be a part of history by saving lives – but we could not have anticipated what the next weeks would bring. Though it was unlike anything we could have imagined, my team managed our small unit like champions. As the first designated unit, we were also the first to use personal protective equipment (PPE). We then used our experience to start the education process to teach others how to don and doff PPE properly. From respiratory therapists and environmental service workers to doctors and advanced clinical providers the float team was there to educate them all. We wanted to make sure each member of our North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) team would be able to fight this battle safely.
As the need for more COVID units arose, we opened our unit happily to the ICU nurses who expanded their services to care for patients. We showed them where our supplies were kept and oriented them to our unit so they could take care of the sickest patients. The float team’s challenge was then opening two brand-new units and our nurses, PCAs and CSAs, proudly came in on days off to help support our patients. Every time a manager would ask for more staff many volunteers would offer each time – all to make sure our team members weren’t going to be overwhelmed.
We are still fighting, but the most amazing thing I’ve noticed over the past weeks isn’t just the amount of lives we’ve saved, but that everyone is still smiling. My team carries on with the same smiles and laughs they’ve always had, sending each other heartfelt messages throughout the day. Come to one of our units at any time and I guarantee you’ll hear uplifting music playing from our nursing stations. You’ll find a busy nurse still making time to go room to room with an iPad, helping our patients to FaceTime their family. A few happy tears are shed when we learn a patient has been discharged or when we hear “Here Comes the Sun” play overhead, and celebrating that a patient gets to live because they won the battle – that we won the battle together.
I have never seen strength like this in my lifetime. Though these times are dark, this team has brought light into this world and shown me what it means to truly be a hero. Working aside these people has been the privilege and the honor of a lifetime. Float team, you are saving lives every single day and going through one of the hardest times, arguably of our lifetime, and you’re facing it with positivity. I am so proud of you all and so proud to call you my float family.
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