Dr. Tam asks for community's kindness, compassion during COVID-19 surge
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to work as a Unit Secretary on one of our inpatient floors at Beebe Medical Center. I was busy--answering phone calls and responding to patients pushing their nurse call buttons, handling paperwork, re-supplying everything from printer ink to isolation gown carts and getting people water.
It was a very challenging role, made more so by the fact that nurses were busy taking care of patients in isolation due to COVID and other infections (this means that a healthcare worker has to put an isolation gown and other PPE on every time they go in to a patient's room, take it all off when they step out, and then put on a fresh set when going in to the next room). I myself wore an N-95 mask and goggles sitting at the front desk of the unit.
I will be the first to admit that I was not a great Unit Secretary--partly because I did not know where everything was or how things worked - but also because I was not a regular and did not benefit from the teamwork that comes from people working together for a period of time. I think I did okay, although I will wait and see how the team during that shift rates my performance.
I answered many calls from worried family members asking about their loved ones who are patients at the Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus. I could sense the stress and anxiety in their voices, especially as we have had to limit visitations due to COVID restrictions. Most were kind and respectful, especially as I was not an experienced secretary and took time connecting them with the nurses taking care of their family. I did not identify that I was the President and CEO at Beebe when anyone called.
However, one call stands out in my mind. I answered the call with, "Beebe Healthcare, XXXX unit front desk, David speaking. May I help you?" It was apparent the caller was stressed. They asked to speak to a nurse. When I asked who the patient was and their room number, the caller became angry that I didn't already have this information. They expressed their anger at me, using expletives, while I attempted to assist them. They asked to speak to my supervisor, and I let the caller know who the charge nurse was and took a message.
I thought about this experience. As the President and CEO, and a physician, I often do not experience this type of interaction. And when I do, I also recognize it ls part of my job as the public face of Beebe Healthcare. And I also recognized that the caller was likely scared and anxious, worried about their loved one who was in the hospital with a very serious illness. But I am hearing more and more about the challenges healthcare workers are experiencing as they face greater hostility from a community that Is dealing with yet another surge.
Every person at Beebe Healthcare is stressed and anxious, too. Everyone is worried about their health and the health of their families. They are worried not only for themselves, but also because getting COVID will mean that they will have to quarantine and thus put greater pressure on their colleagues and teammates. And so, they have come to work every day for the past two years.
I am asking for your help. Please--be kind to my team at Beebe Healthcare. They're your team, too. These people stand the watch - whether it is COVID, a car accident, a heart attack, a stroke, cancer, or something else emergent and critical. They are and will be here and take care of you with the same high-quality care delivered at Beebe for the past 106 years.
My team members here are tired. And frustrated. And wanting so much for this pandemic to be over, just like you. But these amazing professionals can't quit. We can't close our hospital or emergency rooms due to lack of staff- because we need to be here for our community. And every person working at Beebe knows that, which is why they keep coming to work. Because they know they are serving their own families, friends and neighbors, their community.
Please be patient and kind with the people of Team Beebe. We need to get through this together, with compassion and kindness for everyone.
Thank you for your support.