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How a Storm-Battered Health System is Helping Employees

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, November 12, 2012

To cover the staffing needs at the system's 16 hospitals, NorthShore-LIJ put workers on 16-hour shifts. Eight-hour sleep breaks at the hospital were scheduled in between work shifts.

Just to manage the expected increase in patient volumes, facilities were staffed at 150 percent. What was never expected was for two large medical centers in New York City to be evacuated. At one of NorthShore-LIJ's hospitals, Lenox Hill, the overall patient volume increased by 100 percent—from 250 to 500 patients.

NorthShore-LIJ health has about 25,000 employees living in the same community the health system serves, so the devastation to the area greatly impacted the staff as well.

Cabral shares the story of one dedicated nurse manager whose home burned down on Breezy Point, the area of Queens where 111 homes were destroyed in a fire.

"She was watching her community burn down to the ground, and minutes later her husband calls her and says, 'Honey, you can't come home, we don't have a house for you to come home to.' I mean you can imagine? Total devastation," says Cabral.

"This is an individual who has made that total commitment to the patient, she's at the hospital making sure the patients are taken care of, meanwhile she has a whole family and all of this devastation to her home to worry about."

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