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By Jacqueline Lisk
This article is a part of Studio/B’s 2020 Everyday Heroes section, honoring those who made life a little better and brighter for others this year. To all the everyday heroes out there, we thank you.
Boston Children’s Hospital delivered uninterrupted care to its patients, while keeping its employees safe, thanks to the individual contributions of staff members—many of whom worked around the clock. But the key to the organization’s ability to navigate the unknown is cross-department collaboration and communication; a culture of preparedness, innovation, and empowerment; and a heartfelt mission to advance pediatric care worldwide, and to protect and care for its patients.
These three staff members exemplify what it takes to keep the #1 pediatric medical center in the U.S. running—and what it means to be an everyday hero.
Pascale Audain, RN, staff nurse III, Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU)/Biocontainment Unit
Audain volunteered for the Biocontainment Unit when it formed in 2015 because she loves a challenge, and an opportunity for growth. Five years ago, Biocontainment was a “just in case unit.” Today, it is a linchpin of Boston Children’s COVID-19 response.
Audain and her team led system-level efforts to teach proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use throughout all clinical and non-clinical areas.
“We were the boots on the ground as far as training staff on how to safely care for COVID-19 patients and keeping themselves safe,” she explains.
The fluidity of the crisis created challenges. “We would be telling staff something one hour, then the CDC would change something and we would have to go back and say, ‘We know we taught you this before, but there have been some modifications.’”
Lately, when Audain checks in on staff caring for a confirmed patient, the staff shoos her away.
“They’re like, ‘No, we got it. We’re okay,’ which was the ultimate goal—that everybody felt comfortable,” she explains.
Achieving that goal took plenty of patience and time, but really, it was a team effort, from top to bottom, Audain says. “Working with all the departments and getting to see how they all function, and how they are willing to come together and learn, it was really humbling and inspiring.”
David Walsh, CMRP, director of supply chain administration
Walsh runs the team that ensures Boston Children’s has the supplies it needs to keep patients and staff safe. That is always hard work, but amid a global crisis, it is more of a herculean feat.
Masks, gloves, and goggles were hard to come by. But COVID-19 also caused a ripple effect in the manufacturing industry. Anything that used the same byproducts as PPE was hard to procure, including petroleum-based products and plastics like syringes, laundry bags, and containers.
“We worked our tails off to locate supplies, especially in the beginning. We chased down every possible lead,” Walsh explains.
He and his team were on the phone all hours of the night, calling on connections they had made all over the world.
“I was very proud to see my staff step up to the plate and put the extra effort in so we didn’t have a break in service and were able to keep our patients and staff safe through this,” he says.
Speed was important, but not as the expense of due diligence. Walsh forged partnerships with local vendors to independently test products and ensure efficacy.
“There’s been a lot more interaction between departments,” he notes, “and I think the biggest lesson we’ve all learned is we’re in this together.”
Isaac Garcia, director of environmental services
Garcia’s colleagues say he makes the impossible look easy. With hands-on leadership and extensive knowledge of advanced environmental services processes, he ensured families and staff were operating in the safest environment possible during COVID-19, while creating a sense of confidence and calm throughout the organization.
Garcia leads two teams: the one responsible for cleaning and disinfecting Boston Children’s, and the one that manages and moves mobile medical equipment.
When people think about cleaning, they think about a mop and a bucket, Garcia says. But at Boston Children’s, cleaning requires 24/7 effort and mastery of precautions and protocols. Likewise, ensuring the clinical staff has the equipment they need to do their job, and that the equipment is clean and safe to use, is a nuanced, around-the-clock operation.
The pandemic also called for perseverance. It put “a little bit of pressure and a spotlight on what we do,” Garcia says, but it has helped the organization to understand his teams’ purpose and importance. It has also brought his team closer together. “I think that at the end of the day, when this is over, we are going to be a stronger, more defined department, and that will allow us to be more effective,” he says.