6. Nurse Grateful to Staff that Saved her Life
Lynn McCurry, R.N., will never forget the day she almost died at work. It was July 2005, and the Emergency Department nurse wasn’t supposed to be on that day, but was asked to cover the shift of a co-worker. She was getting ready to discharge a patient when she collapsed at the bedside.
“If I had been at home when the heart attack happened, I’d be dead,” she says. Instead, her colleagues jumped to her aid, and the rest is history.
“I will always remember the professionalism of the team and especially of Dr. James Starr. I remember he leaned over the gurney and said to me, ‘You scared the heck out of me.’ It was so very human, and touching and comforting to me.”
She was back to work within two months and continues to work in the Emergency Department.She still has the uniform that was cut off of her that day. “Whenever I think I might be having a bad day,” she says, “I just look at it and give thanks for my incredible co-workers and my good fortune.”
7. VacaValley Ready to Blaze New Territory
Janice Marsh, R.N., and administrative coordinator, was there on Day 1 and remembers that the first surgery was a cholecystectomy, followed by a hemorrhoidectomomy, both of which were planned. The third case was a surprise, because the family involved didn’t realize the hospital had opened and had driven to NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. They were thrilled to transfer to Vacaville to be closer to home, remembers Janice.
“We were all so excited on that opening day,” she recalls. “Wearing our white uniforms, starched and pressed, we were ready to go! We didn’t know how many patients we would admit or how sick they would be but we were prepared and eager.
“There were some minor inconveniences,” she remembers, “but they did not dampen our spirits. The chart holders and filing cabinets had not yet arrived. We utilized cardboard boxes under the nursing station to hold the charts and other documents. We didn’t seem to have any hot water, and there were no TVs installed yet in the rooms. The patients didn’t mind. They were happy and excited to be in a brand new, beautiful hospital.”
All private rooms were each equipped with a bathroom and shower, and there was carpet throughout, including the hallways, so there was a reduction in noise. Each room was decked out in cool mauve and pink colors, says Janice, “and we had a state-of-the-art call light system and presence lights in each room to ensure we always knew where the nurses were located.”
8. Remembering Days of Starched White Uniforms and Employee-Bonding Dinners
Dee Steggall, R.N., now director of NorthBay Health at Home, was hired in the summer of 1987, but didn’t actually start on 1 West (the in-hospital moniker for the downstairs patient wing of the hospital) until the fall. She was immediately struck by the family atmosphere.
“Since there was no history, nobody was right, nobody was wrong; we just all came together as a team. We found our own way and we worked together as friends.”
Those were the days before nurse staffing ratios, and she remembered that the patient population fluctuated wildly. Sometimes she’d have to call on extra nurses, other times she’d have to send folks home. And sometimes, she’d just have to deal with a surprisingly high number of patients. “It was not unusual for us to have 10 or 12 a night.” Still, when possible, a considerable number of staff would gather each night in the cafeteria for dinner together. “No one ever sat alone,” remembers Patrick Garner, R.N. We’d just shove another table into the mix and add another chair.”
Respiratory Therapist Sunny Weist remembers that in those days, it wasn’t uncommon to be a one-person department. “You had no partners on the job, but you had friends in every part of the hospital. Those dinners were great bonding opportunities.” “Yes,” agrees Dee. “It was like the bar, Cheers: Everybody knew your name.”
Dee also remembers the white, starchy uniforms that were mandatory on 1 West when the hospital opened. “But we realized later, the Same Day Center and the Operating Room nurses all had colorful scrubs. Why not us?”
It wasn’t a matter of just going out and buying them. A vote had to be taken, and even after that the only color that was allowed, more or less, was pink, because “the uniforms had to match the bedding.” Today, of course, all sorts of colorful outfits are worn by nurses throughout the hospital.
9. Typewriters are Gone; It’s All Electronic Now
A lot has changed since the old days, remembers Diane Irby, R.N., and director of Performance Improvement. “When I started, we didn’t have computers. We used typewriters, and had to fill out forms in triplicate. Eventually we got a computer—I had the only computer on the wing, so everyone wanted to use it.”
Even though the old-fashioned way was slow, some nurses had a hard time letting it go, hiding some of the paper forms in their lockers when NorthBay migrated to an electronic health record in 2008, remembers Ellen Tortorete, R.N., clinical care manager of the ICU/Step Down Unit. “They were sure it wouldn’t work.” But it did, eventually. Doctors, however, didn’t make the changeover until 2010. “They let the nurses break in the system first,” says Ellen.
10. Big Year for New Digs for ER, Pharmacy, Lab
In 2007, VacaValley Hospital celebrated its 20th anniversary with a trio of new accomplishments. First, in April, ribbons were cut to open a new laboratory and new pharmacy at the hospital, allowing both departments to more than double in size. They were built side-by-side on the second floor of the hospital, in vacant, shelled-in space just waiting to be used when the time was right. The pharmacy featured a state-of-the-art IV Clean room, which allows pharmacists to make IV solutions in an absolutely sterile environment. Pneumatic tubes connected to the Emergency Department for quick delivery of urgent medications. Video monitoring systems were installed to allow pharmacists to visually check IVs at a much faster rate, as well.
A few months later, the hospital christened a 10,000-square-foot Emergency Department, which featured 16 exam-treatment rooms and state-of-the-art equipment and furnishings and tripled the size of the previous space.