Zero Employees and Zero Patients with COVID at UMC

Jun 23rd, 2023 | Progress Notes

From Then Until Now

Thinking back now to the Winter of 2020, when hospitalizations were at their highest, it would have been hard to imagine a time when we might hear that there are zero employees out and zero patients at UMC with COVID. Now, in June of 2023, it’s happened. CEO Mark Funderburk recently revealed the milestone in his Monday and Thursday updates (an effort established as part of the pandemic response). It’s important to sit for a moment and consider how different things are now from how they were then and the changes that have happened, both within each of us but also to the larger hospital system and those throughout the country. The world is not the same world it was before the pandemic. There’s been a fundamental realignment of the way we conduct business, the way we socialize, and the way we live day in and day out. Some of us have lost loved ones; some of us have found new ones. Burnout at work, especially in the medical field, has become a significant challenge. However, today, and perhaps not even tomorrow, we’re amid a respite that deserves acknowledgment, consideration, and thoughts about our future.

Recognizing Loss and Healing into the Future

Jamie Anderson, acclaimed author of Doctor Who, wrote a particularly meaningful thought on grief. She wrote, “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” No matter how insulated from the pandemic’s effects anyone might be, it’s hard to believe anyone made it through without a heavy dose of grief. It’s certainly different for each of us, but I think the grief we all share is loss. We might have lost someone or lost something, or lost time or opportunity or a vision. Our perspectives may have changed, touched by periods of sadness or surprising moments of hope—hope found only in moments of great adversity and change. We might have found ourselves holding a deep breath for years, worried about what our ICUs might look like, how many people we might lose, and the risks we take personally to heal and help others… zero employees out and zero patients out. What clearer prompt is there to let go of that long-held breath? To begin to truly heal, to imagine a future still vigilant about diseases like COVID, but one marked by normalcy and hope. We have a lot of personal work to do to return to where we were. Many of us have no intention of looking back, and it’s who we are becoming that’s most important.

But for Now…

For now, let’s consider this moment. When walking around small shops in Ruidoso or your favorite vacation spot, think about how you can taste-test every salsa or ground mustard. Think about how you can brush the shoulder of a stranger passing through a doorway or shake a hand… hold one. Consider the sometimes awful but always interesting dinners with those challenging family members, the low stakes shouting matches across tables, passions, at least, sharable in real time—a voice from a person. Consider the sounds of glasses tapping in a hearty cheers, being able to see an entire person’s face, their smile, or sitting in a room full of others watching a movie, a concert, or the first sight of a newborn. Embrace the sometimes boring, slow, monotonous work you might do from time to time, resolved of the frenetic pace and intensity of mid-pandemic tempos. Step outside and breathe—then release.

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card by Sharing Your Thoughts!

We’d love to hear from you. Progress Notes, after all, is about telling your story. If you’d like to enter to win a $50 gift card, join the conversation by sharing your thoughts. Answer the following question to be entered to win:

  1. How does it feel to you to hear that we’re at zero patients and zero employees out with COVID? In what ways do you feel this milestone is important to you personally and to the hospital system more broadly?

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