Flu and the Emergency Department

January 11th, 2018

Nurses, techs and clerks in the Emergency Department at JPS are giving up days off to make sure care is available for Tarrant County residents stricken hardest by the flu sweeping across North Texas.

Jessie DeWaard, executive director of Emergency Services, said he and Manager Chris Cook

 “That’s just who we are,” said Radiology Tech Andrew Villarreal. “It’s our culture. You get in there, roll up your sleeves and just get it done.”

Jessie DeWaard, executive director of Emergency Services, said he and Manager Chris Cook must enforce hospital policy that prohibits weeks longer than 60 hours for clinical staff. “For a lot of the staff, they want to come in and we actually have to tell them they can’t. Otherwise they’d be here.”

And when you come down with the flu yourself, you stay home when you should to protect others. That’s been the only time away from the hospital for DeWaard and Cook since Christmas.

Among those working 60-hour weeks, Nurse Team Lead Kellie Bunch described her day on Wednesday as “threading a needle in a snowstorm. I have sick patients everywhere, and I have no place to go with them” because at that moment inpatient units were filled to capacity.

DeWaard said the challenge is not so much the number of patients coming to the hospital for care, but the proportion that are critically ill. “Volume is always high, but the acuity is higher,” he said. The same has been true in Urgent Care.

Bunch and Isaac Flores, assistant manager in the ED, said hospital administrators responded immediately to the flu outbreak, ensuring adequate staffing in the emergency room. “It’s made all the difference,“ Flores said. “We’re very appreciative. Everyone’s doing their part. I love this place.”

That includes physicians, doing whatever it takes to care for patients and supporting staff, as well. Emergency room physicians are providing lunch and dinner for the entire staff, two meals a day and two more for the night shift, and have breakroom refrigerators well-stocked with energy drinks.

“We’ll do our best to make sure everyone is able to provide safe and appropriate care for all of our patients,” said Anant Patel, DO.

“Food is a big help,” said Bunch as she swooped in for a quick bite.

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