Emergency Department put to test; passes with flying colors
Tornado sirens sounded as Naomi Powers attended her daughter's graduation in Pittsburg. An hour and a half later, Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg's director of nursing for Emergency Services received two telephone calls - one from Michael Hayslip, the hospital's public relations director, asking if she had heard about the tornado that had struck Joplin, Missouri, and a second from Juliana Rieschick, chief nursing officer, who had set up Incident Command and was calling Powers to the hospital.
Tim Stebbins, MD, medical director for Emergency Services, was on duty that evening. He, Powers and other staff first called physicians and then nurses to see who was available to come and help. Other employees called as well asking what they could do to help.
"The first news I got, we were supposed to get a busload of people," Powers recounts. "We had 10 rooms set up with two extra beds in our trauma bays."
An Emergency Room nurse staffed each room, with two to three procedure nurses from critical care, women's services and other areas of the hospital assigned to help. Lab techs were pulled in as well, making sure that if the ER nurse needed something, he or she didn't need to leave the room.
Triage nurses staffed each entryway to the hospital. Ambulatory care with its 13 beds, the cath lab and QuickCare were all set up to take non-emergency cases so the ED could concentrate on the most acute patients, many with extremity fractures and blunt trauma injuries.
An EagleMed crew member sent a letter to the hospital, stating how impressed he was with the hospital's preparedness.
"I want to tell you how proud I was that Sunday night to be associated with Via Christi," he wrote.
Powers reports that patients and their families came back to the ER the day or two after the tornado to thank the nurses, and the ER staff and registration crew.
"They told us, 'We have never known that type of treatment," says Powers. "They felt so well taken care
of. They were comfortable and we were so fast and efficient with what we did for them."
Powers praised the nurses and other hospital employees who normally wouldn't be at home in the ER
but who took on roles from moving patients to making beds to bringing food to the EMS crews and ER
staff. Each person's effort, she says, was critical to the flow of the ER that night.
"We believe in the Mission and Core Values and the ministry of Via Christi. That, to me, speaks louder
than anything," Powers says. "In that moment, you could see the hearts of these people."