The Voice of a Seattle area Hospital Administrator

By Suzanne Hughes, MSN, RN  |  March 30, 2020  |  Continuing Medical Education, COVID-19

Headshot of Tom DeBoard

I had the opportunity to talk to Tom DeBord, a hospital administrator and former colleague from Ohio. Tom is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Washington.

What wisdom can you share from your experience in leading operations in your Bellevue, Washington hospital over the past month?

This has been a very challenging and long month.  We had been preparing for COVID-19 patients to come like everyone else, but we were not expecting to have a cluster outbreak happen 10 minutes from Overlake Medical Center and become part of the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States. What I have learned most is it takes incredible teamwork, collaboration, and partnership with so many – staff, physicians, administrators, external partners, vendors, and the local and federal government to respond to a crisis at this level.  It also takes amazing patience, kindness, agility, and endurance, as this is a marathon, and not a sprint, for sure.  With that said, I remind all our team daily to pace themselves take time to rest, and rejuvenate so they can be their best for our patients and their family.

Has staffing been a challenge, in terms of clinical staff needing to be in quarantine themselves?

Fortunately, our number of quarantined employees has been low this past month. I attribute that to the amazing work by our caregivers, who every day have strictly adhered to the ever-changing safety guidelines from the CDC, WHO, and Public Health.

What has helped keep your critical care teams focused and collaborative?

Simply said: patients. Our mission is Compassionate Care for Every Life We Touch.  Our critical care staff and physicians are committed to caring for the sickest of the sick. They work together as an amazing team and others throughout many departments have floated into the critical care unit to help their colleagues manage our COVID-19 patients.

What do you wish you would have known a month ago?

The healthcare system was woefully underprepared for this level of personal protective equipment (PPE) need, especially masks, face shields, controlled air-purifying respirators (CAPRs), and powered air-purifying respirator (PAPRs). This has been a massive problem for us and most hospitals in the hardest-hit areas as we have had to conserve PPE and implement safety strategies around extended use and reuse, which just adds to the stress. Also, like most hospitals, we did not have enough negative pressure rooms. But our amazing facilities engineering team, in collaboration with our Department of Health, were able to turn sections of units into negative pressure rooms so we could treat more COVID-19 patients and create the ability to cohort patients, which is seen as a best practice for battling this virus.

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