Volunteering at a COVID-19 testing center in Manhattan was challenging yet rewarding
Written by: Chandra Bishun-Freeman, Senior Medical Assistant, Northwell Health Cardiology Upper East Side
My experience during theCOVID-19 pandemichas been surreal yet terribly real. It has turned our world upside down. Life has changed—under different rules, protocols, even regulations. Like many others, this surreal experience started quickly for me.
For nearly every day of my married life, my husband would stop whatever he was doing to greet me at the door with a warm hello and a kiss when I came home. Our dog also sits patiently by the door, waiting to play. That was all gone in a matter of a few days.
Coming home after work, I run straight to the sink to wash my hands and change my clothes and shower. I greet my husband with an elbow bump. No more kissing or embracing. Our dog has to wait, sadly looking at me until I can give her attention. Since I was not sure if I was working with COVID patients at Northwell Health Cardiology, I followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to practice social distancing at home. Bringing the virus home was a real fear, especially working in health care and traveling on subways and buses.
I’ve been at this cardiology practice for more than seven years, where I’ve focused on providing high quality patient care and support to my coworkers. I am a health care professional and a team player. I did not have a shred of doubt about my role. It is our calling, even if it means working outside normal routines. And in early March, I volunteered to work in one of Northwell’s hospitals that was most affected by COVID-19.
In about a week, I was redeployed to Northwell’s COVID-19 Testing Center on East 76th Street for four weeks in April. I was grateful to work on the front lines despite being fearful for my wellbeing and potentially bringing the virus home. Trying to fall back on my professional training, I ventured out in mask, gloves and worked six days each week, taking the nearly empty bus and train to and from work every day. As odd as this might sound, this was the work that I desperately wanted to do.
At the testing center, we performed nasal swab and blood testing for COVID-19 serology antibodies. The newly formed staff at the facility started training for nasal swabbing by practicing on one another. I was nervous knowing that someone would be putting a long and thin swab up my nose. I was only thinking about the pain and discomfort. Suddenly, I was a patient and a swabber-in-training. Having a swab inserted was the most uncomfortable feeling, but a necessary evil considering the circumstances. Doing it myself allowed me to calm patients and perform the test with precision and efficiency.
Despite the oversized white suit (PPE), I was still fearful of catching COVID-19. Most seven-hour days were spent in an isolation suit, along with a mask, gloves and face shield. What I remember most is how much I had to breathe my own bad breath. Coffee, onions, a bit of everything that went into my mouth would become something I inhaled for the rest of the day. As a swabber, my role was to stand in a room behind a plexiglass separation/protection to perform nasal swabbing. We treated every patient the same—assume they have COVID-19. Some patients came in with a fever. Others were very flush in the face. I remember one patient said to me “please don’t stand close to me. I am coughing and sick. I might be COVID positive.” Every patient, every moment was a heightened state of stress, focus and engagement.
Three days into working at the testing center, my husband told me my color was off. Most likely, I thought, because of wearing a mask, recirculating my own exhale for more than 12 hours. In another week, I had symptoms—runny nose, achy body and a cough.
Still, I enjoyed every moment working at the testing center, especially my colleagues. We made the best of the situation, offering light jokes to keep in the right mindset. During the four weeks working there, I met people from all over the health system. Leadership from Lenox Hill Hospital brought Bombas socks for each employee one day. There were free bagel breakfasts each Monday at another site across the city. Many of the patients I saw at the center were appreciative and thankful of the work I was doing, too, even those who indicated they felt ill and might be COVID positive. Although they were hidden behind their masks I could see how they genuinely felt by just looking at their eyes.
The long hours can wear on you. Waking up early was a part of it, considering I took an early train and crosstown bus to get there. I also volunteered to work 12-hour shifts on Saturdays. After the first Saturday, which followed a 40-hour week, every bone in my body ached, only remedied by a warm bath with Epsom Salt and an 8 p.m. bedtime.
By then, the mild symptoms I experienced a few days earlier worsened. My husband told me he had diarrhea and shortness of breath. Anxiety rose as I now was tested and eagerly anticipated the results while staying home. He and I pretended everything would be fine. And each day, each email or phone call, he would ask “is that the test result?” Luckily, I tested negative, a stress relief like no other. My husband and I kissed and hugged for the first time in what felt like weeks.
I also earned a recognition award from Northwell for working the front lines. Even with the fear of risking my own life, the sweat trickling down my body in the isolation suit, working the long hours, riding the early morning trains alone, without an ounce of doubt I would do this all over again. It was the right thing to do. But, in honesty, it will take the effort of thousands of front line workers who work each day to mitigate the impact of this pandemic. It’s a challenge worth fighting.
The power of teamwork from the U.S. Navy to healthcare recruitment
Teamwork. Loyalty. Problem solving. These are all traits that Michael Ellis, MBA, SPHR, learned in the military that he uses today as a manager in Talent Acquisition at Northwell Health. Serving in the U.S. Navy for 22 years, Mike developed both leadership and recruitment skills that have set him up for success as a Senior Chief Petty Officer and in the recruiting world.
Whether it was learning the vital importance of teamwork while being stationed on a nuclear submarine or learning to think quickly on his feet to identify solutions, the experiences Mike learned in the Navy were invaluable. “In the Navy, I learned how to be loyal to my country, my command and subordinates,” says Mike. “I bring that same level of loyalty to Northwell and the people that work with me. To be successful we all have to work together to achieve common goals.”
Mike has the opportunity to lead our Staten Island recruitment team in finding top talent that helps to deliver exceptional care to patients in their most vulnerable times. And Mike knows firsthand the power that healthcare heroes can have for patients. “I recently was that patient looking for help and had the kindest, most professional and knowledgeable healthcare workers taking care of me. I definitely feel a sense of wanting to give back. I wanted a career in healthcare because I truly want to help people.”
At Northwell, Mike is able to let his own talents shine, all while doing something he loves. “The interactions you have with hiring managers, candidates and the Talent Acquisition team makes this the best job around! It is rewarding to me to help Northwell grow by finding the perfect team members to take care of our patients.”
It’s also here where Mike’s able to combine his passions for giving back, recruitment, and the military within a united workforce that reminds him fondly his time in the Navy. “The Navy was a melting pot of cultures, and I had the opportunity to work and live with individuals who were all different. It has made me think differently about situations, our world and made me a better person, work colleague, husband and dad. At Northwell, I get to continue to work with amazing people from all different cultures.”
It’s a natural fit, and though Mike hasn’t been at Northwell long, he’s already seeing his future here where he is valued as a team member and a veteran. “Being at Northwell has made me feel at home,” says Mike. “There are a variety of resources for veterans to make the transition easier such as the VALOR Business Employee Resource Group (BERG), a dedicated Military and Veteran Liaison Services Office and a Veteran Talent Specialist to assist veterans during the recruitment process. I have made several friends with fellow veterans during my first three months at Northwell and it’s clear the camaraderie exists in the civilian sector.”
Fresh brick oven pizza adds to culinary experience at North Shore University Hospital
The idea of fresh brick oven pizza available within a hospital may seem like a dream, but it’s becoming reality at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). The recent opening of their pizza kitchen is one of the many ways Northwell’s culinary teams are advancing how the organization views food and nutrition as a critical factor for our team members, patients and their families.
Adding a Marra Forni Brick Oven to the NSUH kitchen was met with excitement by the Food & Nutrition team. Training was provided to ensure that not only could they master the pizza oven safely, but that they would have the skills needed to take pizza creation to the next level.
As part of their preparation, members of the culinary team took a trip into New York City to meet a master pizzaiolo, who took them through the process of making pizza in a brick oven. Learning firsthand from an expert allowed them to gain new skills that they could then share within the rest of the NSUH chefs.
Though developing the pizza kitchen took hard work, since it was introduced they’ve already seen appreciation for such a unique and delicious food choice available in the hospital.
“We received nothing but amazing feedback,” says Janisa Freycinet, executive chef at NSUH. “We are now serving about 250 pizzas a day and create different specialty pizzas that our chefs come up with twice a week.”
Some of these creations from the NSUH chefs:
Penne a la vodka pizza
Buffalo chicken pizza
Cauliflower crust pizza
As chefs within the healthcare industry, our teams also know the importance of quality when it comes to ingredients. By using only top-quality products, they’re able to ensure it not only tastes great, but that the pizza is as healthy as it is delicious. Using authentic ingredients like Caputo 00 Flour, Janisa developed the right dough and sauce recipe before training the other chefs inside the kitchen. Today they have around 10 different healthy toppings for patients to choose from, and a house-made pistachio pesto sauce has emerged as the top choice.
Kevin Dinh, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, is the chef de partie of the pizza kitchen and helps ensure everything runs smoothly and correctly. Kevin uses his past experience working within pizzerias to prepare the fresh dough and works with the tournant chefs who prepare the sauces and vegetables. Together they’re helping to lead the way in healthcare culinary arts
“This is just the beginning of our innovative creations,” says Janisa. “Eventually we would like to do house breads, nann pitas, breakfast pizzas and in the future, have the pizza available in room for our patients.”
Bring culinary excellence and nutrition to the health care table at Northwell Health. Join our team.
How Northwell Health used medical research in the face of a global pandemic
Northwell Health implements innovation and technology to lead the industry. One of Northwell Health’s most valued resources is its home of medical research, The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. The Feinstein Institutes is comprised of more than 5,000 scientists and staff make groundbreaking discoveries in a number of areas such as, clinical trials, cancer, bioelectronic medicine and health outcomes. Researchers responsible for making key discoveries in autoimmune disease, sepsis, inflammation, and Parkinson’s disease, shifted their focus to help the fight against COVID-19.
As New York became the epicenter of the virus, the Feinstein Institutes went into action immediately. Within a month, Feinstein Institutes staff worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork to enroll more than 1,300 patients in seven clinical trials and programs. By collaborating with pharmaceutical leaders like Gilead, Sanofi and Regeneron, cutting-edge treatment was offered to Northwell Health patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
What’s worth noting here is not only the spirit of collaboration during a state of emergency, but the role medical research played in trying to find a reliable cure. As Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, CEO of the Feinstein Institutes notes, “Medical research will lead in our nation’s ability to reverse the fatal spread of viruses.” The Feinstein Institutes empowers its researchers and they are fully supported in their fields of practice where they are valued beyond measure. For Betsy Barnes, Feinstein Institutes investigator, the opportunities that have been available to her at Northwell have increased her industry knowledge and confidence in working around disease. So when it came to being called upon to help during a time of uncertainty around COVID-19, she was more than ready to begin research. When asked how it felt to know the impact of her work during a global pandemic, she explains, “It is a wonderful feeling to know I am able to apply my knowledge in a way that is beneficial to patients. We are doing everything we can to work quickly and collaboratively with hopes of producing knowledge that will cure COVID-19 and other health issues.”
The Feinstein Institutes partnered with the Mayo Clinic in joining a network that is working on novel, experimental therapy through the use of antibody testing for those who may have been identified with COVID-19, but are no longer asymptomatic. The incredible work wouldn’t be possible without the commitment its staff shares to delivering excellence. Excellence that inspires positive change for patients who trust Northwell every day. At the Feinstein Institutes’ Institute of Health Innovations & Outcomes Research, Professor Joseph Conigliaro, MD, gleams when speaking about his team. He says, “I am proud of the work my research team and I accomplished in such a short time for COVID-19 research – we are exhausted, but exhilarated and fulfilled in knowing conducting research is beneficial to patients in our health system, and to patients around the world.”
Working in the healthcare industry can be trying, especially when a global pandemic is added to the equation. However, with the leadership of Dr. Tracey and others who empower the imaginations of team members like Drs. Barnes and Conigliaro, the Feinstein Institutes will stand firm in their mission to produce knowledge to cure disease.
An Appointment With: David Gill, AVP, Experience Strategy
Since David Gill, PHD joined Northwell Health in 2012, he’s been committed to making Northwell a great place to work by listening to our team members and ensuring they feel supported both professionally and personally.
Roles he has held during his tenure at Northwell include manager of Workforce and Patient Engagement, director of Talent Management and Engagement, and most recently, AVP of Experience Strategy, which he became in 2017. In this role, he is responsible for informing, designing and shaping a holistic experience for everyone in our organization.
David and his team’s efforts have helped elevate Northwell’s employee engagement, and today the organization is a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®.
We sat down with David to discuss the vital work of our Experience Strategy team.
What is the Experience Strategy team?
The Experience Strategy team is focused on creating the best team member experience from hire to retire. Our team’s goal is to deliver a world-renowned team member experience by driving a culture of innovation, inclusivity, and well-being to empower our team members to redefine the future of healthcare.
There are three interconnected groups within the Experience Strategy team that bring the vision to life.
Listening and Insights is the team solely focused on always listening to team members by obtaining their feedback whether it is through an annual workforce and physician engagement survey, targeted listening sessions or even social media.
Strategic design is the team that leverages the results from our listening methods to build tools and resources for our leaders and team members to help create an environment that fosters engagement. An example of their work is the development and implementation of our Employee Promise, Made for this™. This group had responsibility for rolling out the activities that exemplified what it is like to work at Northwell.
Awards and Recognition is the team that builds monumental experiences that reconnects team members to purpose while recognizing, and celebrating team members by telling their story. This group oversees our recognition programs like the President’s Award, the Innovation Challenge, the Truly awards, as well as Northwell’s myRecognition platform. They have the responsibility of infusing recognition within every stage of the team member’s career journey. Additionally this team manages our application process for Fortune 100 Best Companies to work for.
Why is employee experience vital to Northwell as an organization?
In 2013 Northwell established a goal of becoming a best place to work on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list as well as being at the 90th percentile for team member and physician engagement and patient experience based on third party measurement from Press Ganey. For us to achieve those goals, employee experience had to become a strategic imperative. We had to look at how we were understanding our team members’ needs and how we were providing them with the resources for them to be most successful in their career and then importantly, how we were recognizing them for all of the great work that they did on a day-to-day basis. It is essential to create an environment for employees/team members to feel that they contribute to something greater than themselves, have an opportunity to grow within their career, and feel like a valued member of the organization.
For Northwell, it is critically important to create an exceptional experience for our team members, because we want them to create exceptional experiences for our patients and customers.
In this critical time, what extra steps are your team and Northwell taking to make sure that our healthcare heroes on the front lines are feeling appreciated and recognized?
Amid COVID-19 at Northwell, we were hyper-focused on ensuring that our team members had what they needed. Specifically, we were focused on ensuring that our team members were aware of the bountiful resources available to them to support their holistic well-being. For example, the Emotional Resource Call Center, which was recently implemented by Total Rewards, provides one telephone number for team members to call to meet their well-being needs. If a team member would like to speak with a chaplain, a member of the wellness team, an employee and family assistance program counselor, or other behavioral health practitioners from the Stress Trauma centers, they can reach them through that call center. In partnership with many groups across the organization such as the Office for Patient and Customer Experience, Total Rewards, and Behavioral Health, we stood up Tranquility spaces at many of our facilities. These spaces were designed to build awareness, provide team members with an opportunity to receive a light refreshment, as well as a place of respite activities which are critical during this period.
Lastly, we cannot forget recognizing our team members for their bravery, for their compassion, and for the focus on making our communities well. The recognition efforts were done in strong partnership with the marketing and communications team, the Office and Patient and Customer Experience, the Employee Experience team and HR to provide collateral and support in the form of what we call clap in and clap outs—which are a show of appreciation for team members during shift changes.
What is on the horizon for employee experience at Northwell?
When I look to the future of employee experience and even specifically the work our team is doing, I look toward four focus areas, listening, growth and empowerment, well-being, and life-long affinity. By focusing on always listening to our team members and partnering to build a simple, transparent work environment, this creates trust in leaders and the organization. The employee experience team will capture feedback more frequently from team members, through other methods of listening, not just an annual survey. Genuine engagement can not occur without a focus on growth and empowering team members to be their best selves. The employee experience team will focus on education and hands-on experiences that provide leaders with the necessary skills to foster an environment where team members feel empowered to own their careers and feel psychologically safe to share their innovative ideas. Team members should feel that working at Northwell Health helps them be well. Well-being is the responsibility of all teams. The employee experience team will work on training leaders on how to engage their teams through recognition and appreciation. Lastly, the focus on lifelong affinity is building pride for Northwell, and the work that we do even after a team member’s career journey has ended. Specifically, the employee experience team will develop an alumni program that will keep former team members engaged and lifelong promoters of Northwell’s team member experience.
Recognizing our Asian American and Pacific Islander team members on the front lines
Last month was Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and now is an important time to celebrate our AAPI team members who are working tirelessly as healthcare heroes on the front lines. Heritage months are vital in celebrating our backgrounds, diversity, and history. As America’s top health system for diversity on DiversityInc‘s ranking of Top Hospitals and Health Systems, Northwell Health is committed to not only recognizing our diverse team members but celebrating their cultures, history, experiences, and their contributions within our organization.
“AAPI Heritage Month means taking a few moments to embrace different elements of our population and using them to serve our community and health system,” says Chandini Daswani, Practice Nurse Practitioner at Lenox Hill Hospital. “Although we have a big family here at Northwell, everyone brings their unique and individual backgrounds, which we can use to enhance what we can offer to our colleagues and patients.”
Hear from our team:To celebrate, we asked some of our AAPI team members about the importance of celebrating AAPI Heritage Month and the work that they’ve been doing on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have been working remotely since mid-March, and my workload has increased substantially due to the influx of COVID-19 related research ideas. I have also been working as a Volunteer Emergency Medical Technician in the NYC 911 EMS system since mid-March during my evenings and weekends.”
Timmy LiDirector of Clinical Research for Emergency Medicine, North Shore University Hospital
“Recognizing and acknowledging that the AAPIs are part of the foundation of this great nation. I am a proud first-generation Filipino-American in this country. My role is to make sure that we promote patient safety while providing optimal dialysis treatments to our patients daily. During the pandemic, our team remains in full force, engaged and focused while we combat COVID-19 on our battlefield.”
Ryan GudaNurse Manager, Northwell Health Physician Partners
“COVID–19 has not changed my role and responsibilities as a front line worker, and yet it brings the best out of people. It is nice to celebrate the AAPI Heritage Month during this pandemic with kindness, hope and lots of love.”
“During this pandemic, I took care of sick patients on COVID-19 medical floors and in intensive care units. It has been challenging to treat a disease that is new to us while sorting through a myriad of the latest discoveries on a daily basis. It has been extremely gratifying to watch patients recover and be reunited with their loved ones. As a physician, this is my ultimate reward.”
Eric CuiPGY III Resident, Staten Island University Hospital
“I am honored to be part of the AAPI community because my background is what makes me a better physician. As an AAPI, I take pride in being a mentor to all of my residents and students and instilling in them the values that I developed and have been taught throughout my career.”
Razia Jayman-AristideHospitalist at Southside Hospital & Assistant Director for Ambulatory Clerkships at the Zucker School of Medicine
“I was given a huge opportunity to work in a team for the COVID-19 Remdesivir clinical trials as a research coordinator, mainly overseeing the Electronic Data Capture part. Sometimes it was difficult and upsetting to see patients going through a hard time, but I was happy to see them getting better. Working non-stop since March was physically tiring, but I believe it was worth it. I am happy to help fight the virus and be involved in improving healthcare.”
Hye Jeong JangResearch Coordinator, North Shore University Hospital
“Being a Filipino means we have a tight knit family and it broke my heart to see patients during COVID-19 without their families by their side. Thank God for the support of the hospital system where we were given the tools we needed to take care of our patients and our well being. We were able to take care of them the best way we could, and from the help of all the people around us we can overcome this pandemic.”
Zenaida OrfanelRegistered Nurse, Lenox Hill Hospital
“The heritage month is about being able to incorporate our culture and heritage into a multi-diverse society. It makes me feel proud because our contributions, achievements and successes are being recognized to help better our community, society and nation as a whole. Therefore, it is an honor and privilege to be a part of this organization.”
Norma BalceRegistered Nurse, Lenox Hill Hospital
“We recognized the contributions and influence of AAPIs to the United States. It is a celebration and also a great opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of AAPIs. I am proud that I am an Asian American.”
Zhao (Jalie) HuDirector of Financial Analysis, Orlin & Cohen Medical Specialists Group
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been an intense experience for me due to the numerous, urgent needs with COVID-19 related to clinical research and navigating regulatory pathways to use unapproved drugs and device products for COVID-19 patients. I feel that I have grown from these new challenges and developed new relationships with various team members throughout the organization.”
Ji-Eun KimDirector, Research Regulatory Affairs, The Office of Research Compliance/Corporate Compliance
Lab Professionals play an essential role in the fight against COVID-19
Northwell Health Labs has been at the forefront of innovative care before and during COVID-19. Our labs quickly established itself as a leader in processing COVID-19 tests, being the first with manual tests, and later automated testing processes. As the fight against COVID-19 evolves, so does the work of our laboratory teams. Today their focus has shifted to include antibody testing, a test that allows patients to see if they previously had the novel coronavirus.
To perform these vital tests for our communities, our laboratory team members have been working in new ways. Former laboratory technologists have volunteered to return to the floor to help meet increased testing volume while our phlebotomists have been working outside the labs at COVID-19 testing sites. The teamwork displayed has been endless as they work together behind the scenes to keep our communities safe and our clinicians informed.
Recognizing the needs in this unprecedented time, many lab professionals continue to go above and beyond to deliver care. Merissa Ashrafalli, a lab technologist in Diagnostic Immunology/Serology at Northwell Health’s Core Lab, even returned early from her paid family leave bonding time to help support the fight against the virus. “I returned early to help on the front lines during this critical time because my team needed me. Our patients are our priority. Many think of a specimen as just a sample, but that is someone’s family member.”
And her work in Serology has never been more vital as her team works to get COVID-19 samples processed in a timely manner while dealing with new testing platforms and new assay material. “Without our staff in Serology, testing could not happen,” says Merissa. “As a team we are all working and learning together in this fight.”
Serology professionals aren’t the only ones essential to the Northwell Labs. Phlebotomists play the important role of collecting the samples – the first step in getting a diagnosis so patients can receive the care they need. As part of the initial battle, phlebotomists like Amber LaGuerre, volunteered to work at the New Rochelle COVID-19 testing site, the first in the country.
“Being a part of the New Rochelle drive-thru was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Amber. “I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer because I knew it was my way to rise to the occasion and make a difference in this pandemic.” As the first testing site, the work of Amber and the other team members changed daily to ensure their testing would be as accurate as possible as the nation’s knowledge of the disease grew. It was their dedication, ability to adapt, and skills that helped make the site a success.
While Amber’s time at the testing site may have ended, she’s still working tirelessly to help patients get the care they need. As a phlebotomist with LabFly, Northwell’s mobile app that lets patients schedule blood draws at home, she’s bringing the testing process directly to our patients. “I know the work I’m doing is impactful no matter the setting I’m placed in, whether it be a hospital, nursing home, or a patient’s home,” says Amber. “Patients are more at ease being tested at home and I’m glad that we’re able to offer the convenience of LabFly to make the testing process just a little more comforting in a time of such uncertainty.”
Though work of our laboratory teams continues to evolve during the pandemic, one thing remains consistent: these healthcare heroes should be proud of the vital role they’re serving in defeating COVID-19.
“I am prouder than ever to work with Northwell Labs because I’ve seen lab personnel finally be recognized beyond the organization for the work we do,” says Merissa. “It is in these times that those who work behind the scenes get the thanks that is needed.”
“It’s very humbling to know as a phlebotomist my work is directly combating the fight against COVID-19,” agrees Amber. “The amount of gratitude I receive not only from patients, but people on the street that see me in scrubs throughout my shift, is a daily reminder of why I chose to be in healthcare.”
Behind the Mask: Working as a Respiratory Therapist during the COVID-19 pandemic
Written by: Drew Devlin, RRT, LRCP, Director, Respiratory Care / Sleep Lab / Pulmonary Rehab, Southside Hospital
To say that the respiratory care team was instrumental throughout the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. Although the respiratory care team has always been critical in patient care, it was in this pandemic battling a respiratory virus that the team had a moment to shine, and that is just what they did. Our respiratory therapists have touched every patient in one way or another by providing oxygen, running blood gasses, participating in intubations, managing ventilators, transporting patients to CT scans, and from emergency rooms to other critical care units. We have also been part of the process to meet the challenges of converting noninvasive ventilators into units that were now able to provide invasive applications. This team has truly been front and center playing a large part in caring for our patients during this period in an innovative way.
As the leader of the respiratory care team, I am truly proud of the work they did and how they stepped up to the plate during this difficult time of need. In order to deliver care during the outbreak, the work of the team evolved quickly and continued to change throughout the pandemic. Essentially, our normal process and daily responsibilities were completely revamped to adjust to the high volume of patients and the level of care we were providing to our patients. New policies, processes and protocols were developed rapidly and the respiratory care team was able to play a crucial role in the strategy and development of the new responsibilities. With respiratory therapists being so vital due to the nature of the illness, it gave them a great sense of purpose to be able to step in and provide their expertise. These healthcare heroes were truly able to make a major difference.
Respiratory care team members used posters to leave inspiring messages to each other throughout the pandemic.
Throughout stressful work conditions and long hours, team members found moments of hope and motivation by standing united together. I watched as they came to work every day with pain in their eyes and concern in their hearts for their patients, their colleagues, and their families, and yet they continuously provided the best care possible. There was camaraderie and collaboration throughout the whole process, and they really showed each other what it meant to not only be a team, but a family. To keep our spirits up, we would take time to share positive results of patients and track successful outcomes even after they left our care. There was also constant communication through emails, text messages, and postings on the walls throughout the department including pictures of the team hanging up as a constant reminder that we were all in this together. I also looked for articles on motivation to provide to the team and had the Chaplin come speak to the team in an effort to provide hope during this difficult time.
As a team, we also tried to talk about our experiences and share what we were going through to help each other out and know that we were not in this alone. We also brought in additional resources in the form of respiratory therapists from outside of the organization, to provide extra support and helping hands. This also enhanced motivation amongst the team because there was a realization that we were in a global battle, us versus the virus, and our best chance was to have all hands on deck and work together as a united team with respiratory therapists from near and far. It was also comforting and reassuring to see frequent visits from the senior leadership team to see how the team was doing, ask if there was anything we needed and how they could assist in any way.
The whole respiratory team exceeded expectations during this time, and I know this experience has made them stronger and even better than before. Each and every person on this team is my hero and we always consider ourselves a team and a family. Together, through this experience, they rose to the occasion and I am proud of the entire team for the work they have done and the care they have provided.
Written by: Elisa Vicari, LCSW, North Shore University Hospital
Staying in touch with families of COVID-19 patients have strengthened bonds and helped provide compassionate care against the odds.
As a social worker in the Intensive Care Unit at North Shore University Hospital, I’ve become immune to people passing away. Death is an unfortunate part of the job because we are treating the sickest patients.
COVID-19, though, was quite different for me and my colleagues.
During the patient surge in late March, we were caring for otherwise healthy 20- and 30-year-olds who were unaware of their surroundings and had no business being intubated. These are previously independent individuals who have been abruptly put on life support. This is the heartbreak the coronavirus leaves.
Adding to the complexities of this situation, visitation was restricted and patients in our unit were unable to speak to their families. This didn’t sit well, so I adapted my practice and refocused my efforts to find a solution. A quick Instagram post asking my friends and followers for one iPad donation turned into more than 20 and about $11,000 in community support—the true power of social media. Their assistance has allowed us to set up every unit within the hospital and other facilities in the area with iPads, which have been critical to helping us connect with families.
Not everyone is comfortable going into patient rooms. It’s a personal choice that must be made, one that I did not struggle with. A social worker’s role is to connect and assist, and the iPads have openednew roads to make important video callswhere we could show not just a patient’s condition, but the entire room and care team.
In the ICU, patients are mostly intubated. Finding close connections has been challenging. Instead, we have grown closer to families, FaceTiming with them every other day for status updates, learning nicknames, favorite songs and of their pets who await them at home. They’ve sent pictures so we can build collages and fill their rooms with love. I feel like I’ve become a part of these families just by holding the screen for them.
In some end-of-life circumstances, visitors have been allowed to see their loved ones in their final moments. We’ve been there to help them with personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing their fears and coping with their situation. Some are able to hold their family member’s hand for the first time in weeks. We are also assisting with funeral arrangements, which are very different than usual with increased wait times. It’s overwhelming, physically taxing and mentally exhausting. But it’s worth it. I couldn’t imagine being on the other side, watching the terrible images on the news of beds being piled up and not knowing if my loved one is OK. Showing families that our patients are in private rooms and we are helping them has given them tremendous comfort.
When patients fail, I feel it more than I used to because I’ve grown closer to them and their families. Our conversations aren’t just based on medical concerns, rather vulnerable situations that I’ve now been welcomed into.
It’s bittersweet. When things go well, they go well. But when they don’t, it’s devastating. At the heart of it, we deliver personalized, patient-centered and compassionate care, pandemic or no pandemic. COVID-19 may have tested our mettle and capabilities, but we have survived thanks in part to the camaraderie between us and families. We have all met this challenge with innovation, compassion and integrity. I really admire the people I work with who have stepped up. Teamwork is everything, knowing we will get through this together.
Five non-clinical careers to explore within healthcare
No matter what your major is in school, there’s a healthcare job for you. While students may first think of the doctors, nurses, and other clinical professionals working directly with our patients inside our hospitals, there are also many non-clinical career opportunities that students can explore. From working in Human Resources supporting our team members on-site to helping produce our next television commercial, the wide variety of jobs available at Northwell Health may surprise you.
Take a look at some of the non-clinical careers you can explore within the healthcare industry.
Human Resources is a perfect job field for empathetic individuals who want to help to continue to make Northwell a great place to work. These problem solvers use their people skills and data to have a direct impact on the work environments within our organization. Our diverse HR teams manage benefits, compensation, talent acquisition, employee experience, compliance, and more as they work towards a common goal of promoting engagement, inclusivity, and a fair and happy workforce.
If you are interested in a career in HR, you may want to pursue a degree in human resources management, labor and industrial relations, health care or business management, or psychology.
Carpentry, Engineering and Construction
Trade skills like carpentry, engineering and construction are an important part of keeping our facilities running smoothly. In addition to repairs and refurbishments, our team members have the exciting task of building out our new units and hospital additions. And with Northwell constantly growing and evolving, that means plenty of opportunity to work on innovative projects within the healthcare industry while having a direct impact on the care our clinicians are able to provide.
If you are interested in a carpentry, engineering or construction career, you may want to pursue a degree from a trade or vocational school.
Interested in a unique finance or customer service career that allows you to have an impact on patient care and experience? Revenue cycle may be the department for you! These non-clinical professionals perform a vital role within our healthcare organization by handling all billing and collecting of hospital receivables. From our customer service team members who are handling patient registration and patient financial counseling in our hospitals, to those working in non-patient-facing areas such as insurance verification or health information management, they’re working together to improve the experience of our patients and to secure financial strength for our organization to continue to grow.
If you are interested in a revenue cycle career, you may want to pursue a degree in health information management or healthcare, business or public administration and complete coding specialist or registered health information technician certifications.
Administration and Operations
If you’ve got a business-oriented mind and a talent for managing details, working in administration and operations is a great opportunity to explore. Working in healthcare operations allows team members to have a direct impact on how a hospital is functioning. From managing budgets to ensuring quality and efficiency, our administrators are ensuring hospitals and practices are running smoothly for both employees and patients. They also have the exciting opportunity to lead facilities with the development of new projects and programs that are improving processes, services, and experiences.
If you are interested in a career in administration and operations, you may want to pursue a degree in healthcare administration and operations, finance, business administration, or public health.
Marketing and Communications
Behind every social media post, press release, or television commercial, is our Northwell marketing and communications team. These non-clinical professionals work behind-the-scenes to help raise awareness of Northwell and the many services we offer to the communities we serve. Creativity and strategy are key within this team as their initiatives pique interest, engage, and build trust with our patients. Joining this team means working on Facebook Lives with doctors, developing branding for the organization, fostering public relations and much more.
If you are interested in a marketing career, you may want to pursue a degree in marketing, public relations, graphic design, or communications.
You don’t need to be a doctor or a nurse to work in the healthcare industry. There are many non-clinical roles that provide a career that’s equally rewarding both emotionally and developmentally. Every team member across our 72,000+ team members contributes to ensuring our patients and communities get the care they need to lead healthy lives.
Beyond the PPE: Two nurses help patients and staff connect during COVID
Lulette Infante and Antonella Farrell, registered nurses at Northwell Health and lifelong friends, came together during the COVID pandemic to identify a solution for our clinical team members so they could maintain that personal connection during patient care. These two incredible nurses wanted to ensure that our patients would still be able to see the identities of our healthcare heroes, whose faces were covered by their personal protection equipment (PPE), so they created photo badges for our clinical staff to wear over their PPE.
The idea was prompted after reading a New York Times article featuring Cohen Children’s Medical Center’s Senior Vice President Dr. Schlein who acknowledged his gratitude to the frontline workers who saved his life from COVID, but he had no idea who they were because of their PPE. Thus, Project Unseen Heroes was formed so patients would be able to see the smiling, caring faces of our frontline workers.
A career journey that surpasses two decades
Both Lulette Infante, MSN, RN, CPON, and Antonella Farrell, BSN, RN, began their careers more than two decades ago as a student nurse intern from Adelphi University at CCMC in 1996. They advanced their careers at Northwell throughout their journey, holding a variety of roles and responsibilities along the way. Today, Lulette is an ambulatory nurse specialist and ambulatory administrator at Northwell where she focuses on quality and optimization for pediatric practices, and Antonella Farrellis is a pediatric Hematology/Oncology, pediatric sickle cell nurse coordinator at CCMC.
One small idea leads to big results
Lulette and Antonella first introduced the large photo badges at CCMC and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, receiving numerous positive responses from leadership, staff and patients. Lulette notes patients even commented, “so that’s what you look like!” Eventually they were able to guide other hospitals, including Northern Westchester, Lenox Hill, Huntington Hospital and even external hospitals such as Elmhurst Hospital, to develop photo badges for their team members.
“The staff is reporting back that they felt it is truly helping their patients now that they can see the smile behind the mask,” Antonella says. The staff has been sending Lulette and Antonella pictures of themselves in the PPE with their badges. Having the large picture badges enabled our frontline workers to maintain that personal connection while caring for their patients while being fully secured under their PPE at the same time.
“We could not even start without the incredible support we have received from our leadership and their commitment to continually enhance patient experience and promote compassionate care,” Lulette says.
Project Unseen Heroes was a success due to Lulette and Antonella’s teamwork. Patients feel more comfortable in the hospital seeing the badges on the nurses and doctors, knowing who is taking care of them.
Lulette and Antonella are true examples of Northwell Heroes. Are you ready to become a Northwell Hero? Join our team.
Meet Truly Compassionate Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Regina Muir
This post is a part of a blog series highlighting Northwell Health’s Advanced Clinical Providers (ACP). Each Northwell Health employee was nominated by their manager as an individual who exemplifies Northwell Health values.
Regina is no stranger to delivering care within Northwell Health’s network. Having started her career in 1985 as an RN in the Pediatric ED at Cohen Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) she has grown her career alongside Northwell’s growth as an organization throughout the years, becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP). As a seasoned healthcare professional impacting the lives of others for over 25 years, Northwell continues to provide Regina with the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Skills that would be essential during the COVID-19 crisis.
Before the pandemic, a typical day for Regina meant examining children prior to surgical procedures and developing a plan of care for them. As the volume of surgeries decreased, Regina knew it would take another level of commitment and compassion to continue to make a difference. With her scope of practice as a Pediatric NP limited to patients aged 21 and younger, Regina volunteered to work temporarily as a registered nurse so she would be able to provide care during COVID-19 to adult patients.
Many team members took on reassignments across the network but Regina notes that regardless of the role that was asked of the staff, each understood the value of their place on the team. “I knew that I worked with an amazing group of people but I had not realized the strength and compassion of our team,” says Regina. As an RN, Regina worked first in the ED at LIJ Medical Center and then on the medical floors to help with increased patient volumes.
Maintaining the same level of compassion from her work as an NP, Regina went above and beyond with her colleagues on the medical floors to create a comfortable experience for patients in need of care by setting up a cart filled with basic items for care such as deodorant, wonderful smelling soaps and lotions, lip balm, among other items, to help patients feel more comfortable and at home. “We added to the cart as we found items patients needed like extended phone chargers so the patients could charge their phones from bed and earphones so patients could block the noise and sleep. I watched my colleagues do so many wonderful things,” says Regina.
The collaborative and helpful spirit of the team members would continue beyond the hours they were needed to work. Building bonds with their patients, Regina and her team members would text to check in on them and even show up to see patients off to rehab or be discharged on their days off. When one patient was discharged after 45 days in their care, Regina and her unit organized a red carpet to see him off.
“The PST ACPs did many things for patients but most importantly they made a personal connection, finding out about them, their history, and their family,” Regina says. And though there were extremely challenging moments as some patients lost their fight against COVID, the team still found ways to rally and provide each patient with the best care possible.
Northwell offers unique opportunities for each employee to learn and grow, and for someone as compassionate as Regina, it’s the perfect place to be. Regina says, “I am so proud to be an ACP at CCMC, and at Northwell. The past few weeks have truly made me appreciate how special my colleagues and Northwell are. We have met so many exceptional team members who work in a variety of roles here. They are truly ‘Made for this.’” All of us are proud of Regina, a Truly Compassionate ACP!
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