Innovation and Patient Care

young girl with bandaged hand in hospital

Meeting a community’s healthcare needs requires the ability to innovate, adapt, and rise to any challenge. Hennepin Healthcare has demonstrated a willingness to take on the toughest challenges, always focused on patient needs.

Originally published by Hennepin Healthcare (Summer 2023)

NO STIGMA, NO JUDGMENT
TACKLING THE ADDICTION EPIDEMIC ONE PATIENT AT A TIME

For 20-year-old Sundus Ali, addiction isn’t just a disease. It’s an ever-present threat to her survival.

Sundus Ali“It's like standing in front of a bus and knowing the bus is going to hit you and you're going to lose everything and everyone, and still not being able to move,” she said.

Sundus was raised in an abusive home, with a father who was addicted to alcohol and drugs. She started drinking when she was eight to cope with severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. She got into hard drugs at 11. When she was 17, she woke up to discover her friend, who was sleeping in her room, had died of an overdose. She knew that if she didn’t get help, she was probably next.

“Something broke,” she said. “I just was like, ‘I can't keep doing this. I need to get clean.’"

After trying numerous treatment programs, Sundus eventually found her way to the Hennepin Healthcare Addiction Medicine Clinic. She said walking through those doors put her on a new path toward hope.

“To say it is literally my lifeline isn't an exaggeration,” said Sundus. “It's factual. I would probably be dead without this place, because in certain points of my life, this is all that I had.”

As is often the case with substance use disorders (SUDs), Sundus’ path hasn’t been smooth or easy, but she knows she finally has a team that is on her side.

“When we come here, we have doctors who care and who respect you as a human being,” said Sundus. “Here, if you are going to have a doctor, you're going to have 120 percent of them. When they're with you they're not answering the phone. They're not talking to anybody else. They're completely and totally focused on how they can help you.”

Tackling an Epidemic with Science and Support

To call addiction a public health crisis is, in some ways, understating the issue. Fueled by skyrocketing opiate use (including fentanyl), drugs, alcohol and nicotine have become the number one cause of preventable death in the world. In the United States, three quarters of a million people die every year from these substances. In 2021, an average of four people in Minnesota died each day from a drug overdose. Beyond the numbers, addiction takes an enormous toll on families, communities, and our social and criminal justice systems.

As a healthcare provider with a mission to care for everyone, Hennepin Healthcare has found itself in the middle of this epidemic. Between 2008 and 2020, SUD-related hospital admissions at Hennepin Healthcare increased from 23 percent to 33 percent of total admissions.

For Addiction Medicine physician, Dr. Lauren Graber, the sheer numbers show that we need to change the way we think about addiction. 

Addiction Medicine Staff

“This is all of us, all of our coworkers, all of our friends, every neighborhood. This isn't just something that happens in the inner city, on the subway, or whatever the stereotype is,” said Dr. Graber. “That's why I've taken this path, because diving in here is how we make the change in the world.”

While some healthcare providers may turn away from what can seem like an insurmountable challenge, Hennepin Healthcare welcomes everyone who needs help, providing inpatient and emergency consultation as well as clinical services.

At the Addiction Medicine Clinic in downtown Minneapolis, the waiting room is often filled with patients who come from around the metro area for weekly or monthly check-ins. Many patients receive addiction treatment medication, which can be extremely effective for opioid, alcohol and tobacco use disorders, but are often stigmatized by a dangerous double standard.

“People will have cancer, and they'll tell them, ‘You need to go to the hospital. You need to get checked by a doctor,” said Sundus. “You can have HIV, and they'll tell you, ‘Go get some medicine.’ This disease is just as deadly as all of those, but people just tell you to stop. They don't tell you, ‘Go get the help that you need,’ which is what is going to save your life.”

In addition to medication, Hennepin Healthcare also provides individual counseling, drug and alcohol testing, and referrals to other medical and psychiatric services as needed. Clinic staff often connect people with outside resources to help with underlying issues, such as food or housing insecurity.

Hennepin Healthcare also plays an important role in expanding access to care through medical education and training, helping advance understanding of SUDs and treatment options. This includes engagement through Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), which provides addiction training to more than 1,000 providers across Minnesota and beyond.

No Stigma, No Judgment

One of the greatest barriers to helping people with addiction is getting past the stigma that is often associated with the disease.

“We're in a country where people with drug problems tend to be disowned by their families,” said Dr. Gavin Bart, Hennepin Healthcare’s Addiction Medicine Division Director. “The police arrest them and they end up in jail as a criminal justice problem. They lose their jobs. They lose their housing. To be honest, the healthcare system hasn't historically done a very good job taking care of people with addictions and treating them fairly.”

Dr. Bart and his team are intent on a different approach, one focused on empathy and the creation of a “judgment free” zone. They understand every addiction story is different, and every individual deserves to feel safe and heard.

“There will never be another hospital that I go to that I feel I will get the respect that I get here,” said Sundus. “To deal with the disease of addiction, we need humanity. We need respect. Because we don't feel as if we have it. We feel shamed. We feel different. We feel like losers.”

Dr. Graber says these feelings are common, which is why it is critical to help patients know they are valued.

“Stigma is something that all of our patients walk in the door feeling,” she said. “It's not only something they feel from other people, it’s also something that they feel within themselves. I feel like my job is making sure they know, ‘You are welcome here at any point, whether that be today, whether that be next week or next year, you have a place where you can be your wholehearted self.’"

Fighting Misperceptions, Finding Cures

Substance abuse disorders are shrouded in myth and misperception, which can prevent people from seeking the help they need. For 37-year-old Sarah Andrews, the stereotypes around addiction allowed her to hide her disease and kept her from getting treatment.

“I was very high-functioning. I had three businesses, three children, PTA meetings, soccer games,” said Sarah. “On the outside looking in, you would've never known I was addicted and struggling every single day with hard drug use.”

Sarah was born addicted to heroin and cocaine due to her mother’s drug use. She was in a medically induced coma for three weeks as a newborn. When she was 13, she started drinking regularly. Around 16 she started using drugs like methamphetamines. While at first it seemed like a social activity, things quickly turned.

“I knew the way that I used wasn't normal,” said Sarah. “I could look around me and realize that nobody else was using the same way that I was using. At a certain point, it's not about getting high anymore. It's about not getting sick and it feels like survival.”

Sarah sought treatment, visiting a number of centers and trying a variety of therapies, but nothing seemed to work. At one point she started to believe she was destined to repeat the cycle of treatment and relapse over and over again. She lost custody of her children and felt like she was spiraling out of control.

“When you lose everything and you try to take your own life, you have literally no lower to go,” she said. “When there's nothing else that can be taken from you, there's nothing else you can destroy or give away or hurt yourself by doing… then grace is possible.”

Thankfully, Sarah’s story took a different turn when she tried a new medicinal treatment called Sublocade®, a monthly injection aimed at curbing cravings for opiates. She said the injections, combined with the care she has received at Hennepin Healthcare, have been a game-changer for her recovery.

“I had tried many other clinics,” she said, “but the care that I found here, the love, the understanding, the compassion, the true interest in my recovery, has been unparalleled.”

For the Addiction Medicine care team, stories like Sarah’s show the promise and potential of the work they do.

Expanding Reach and Advancing Care

Unfortunately, the need for treatment is only getting more profound. Last year in Minnesota there were around 125,000 people with an untreated illicit drug use disorder, and around 250,000 people with untreated alcohol use disorder. Those numbers drive Dr. Bart to do more, to be sure every patient has a path to the treatment they need. This is also why the Hennepin Healthcare Foundation is working to establish an Endowed Chair for the Addiction Medicine Program, to provide funds that will improve access to care, support research, and help advocate for policies that address root causes of addiction.

“We're the hospital that's open 24/7,” said Dr. Bart. “We are the hospital that takes everyone, and we need to make sure that people who are struggling with substance use know that there's a safe place for them to come. There's so much need, and we need to be able to build that capacity.”

Saving Lives for Brighter Futures

While the addiction epidemic can be hard to wrap your arms around, the Clinic staff focus on making a difference one person at a time.

Sarah is building on the success of her treatment, holding down two jobs where she uses her own experience to help others facing addiction. She’s also on a path to regain custody of her kids, a goal that has been made possible by the medication she receives and support from her care team.

 “It's something that I can count on,” said Sarah. “It's something that's consistent. It's something that's personally saved my life, and not just the care and compassion part, but there's other pieces involved here. They have support services and resources. They make sure that you can find a meeting if you need one, or food if you don't have any, or transportation if that's a problem. The care comes from so many different angles here that it's admirable.”

For Sundus, the personal attention from the clinic has helped her through some of her darkest times. During one particularly bad stretch after a relapse, Sundus went to a bridge with the intent of ending her life. As she sat on the railing listening to a song, getting ready to jump, she received a notification from her “MyChart” account. It was a message from her doctor telling her he was looking forward to seeing her at her appointment that week.

“At that point, I had felt so alone, and so isolated, and so trapped, and so worthless, and useless, and unlovable,” she said, “that little message, that little, ‘Can't wait to see you,’ literally saved my life.”

Since then, Sundus has gotten back on track with her treatment and she has even referred some of her friends to Hennepin Healthcare, telling them about the personalized care she has received.

“We might be addicts, and we might be a little rough on the edges, but when we're in here, we're kind to each other,” she said. “It's mostly because of the environment we're in. Because the people here are kind to us, we become kind to each other.”

The combination of science, empathy, and outreach has helped Hennepin Healthcare earn a reputation as a trusted resource for a population that has often had a hard time letting themselves feel vulnerable and trusting others. While the numbers may say the addiction epidemic is only becoming more daunting, Hennepin Healthcare’s Addiction Medicine team refuses to give up, knowing each individual and each story offers hope for a healthier future.

Originally published by Hennepin Healthcare (Summer 2022)

POSITIVE CARE CENTER - EXCEPTIONAL CARE WITHOUT EXCEPTION

Positive Care Center

From right to left: Kristen Gamache, Pharmacist, Keith Henry, MD, Luisa Rodriguez Duran, RN, and Latrice Howard, MA Reg.

In 2005, while he was out for a bike ride, Matt Larsen decided to stop into a clinic for an HIV test.

“I had no money in my pocket, I had no schedule that day. It was a random thought just to check my status so I did it,” he said. “About 20 minutes later, my life changed.”

Reeling from the news that he tested positive for HIV, Matt found his way to the Positive Care Center at Hennepin Healthcare (PCC). As scared as he was walking through the doors, he said he soon realized he was in the right place.

“I remember just trembling and shaking with adrenaline being thrust into this new place in a situation that was so grave and so grim,” he said. “But I knew right away it was a good place for me to be because of the receptionists, and the warmth, and the humanity displayed to everyone I witnessed sitting in the waiting room.”

Under the care of Dr. Keith Henry, Matt began a journey at the PCC that has evolved as his health needs and available treatments have changed. One thing that has stayed the same is his feeling that he found a place that accepts him, listens to him, and has embraced him every step of the way.

Positive Care Center

Dr. Keith Henry with Matthew Larsen

“When you’re in the waiting room, you can tell there are people who are living on the street sitting next to people in tailored suits, and we’re all treated the same. We’re all in the same place,” he said. “Just talking about it, it still brings me to this place of acceptance and understanding.”

“That team helped me realize HIV isn’t the death sentence everyone thought it was,” he continued. “It can be scary but you have to move through it. There’s no shortcut. And it’s so important knowing there are supportive, kind people behind those doors who are there to help.”

Teamwork and the Power of Kindness

Hennepin Healthcare first opened a dedicated HIV Clinic in 1981, as the AIDS epidemic was first starting to spread across the United States. It was renamed the Positive Care Center in 2005. The mission of the Center was to create a safe space for patients who were often stigmatized and isolated due to fear, misunderstanding and prejudice about the disease. That mission continues to this day as the staff works to create a supportive environment where every patient, regardless of their ability to pay, can get the best care while being treated with respect and dignity.

“In those early days, when there wasn’t much we could do for patients scientifically, I learned things they don’t prepare you for in medical school,” said Dr. Henry. “The power of words and touch become important. Listening and helping people not feel isolated. Many patients look for every reason not to return to the clinic, so it’s the kindness you can show people that may catch them off guard and will help bring them back.”

The patient experience at the PCC is the result of a team approach. Every staff member understands they play a part in creating a welcoming environment. That includes supporting patients and each other.

Amanda Noska

Dr. Amanda Noska, Medical Director of the Positive Care Center

“It's hard work to absorb all of the chaos and sadness and suffering in the world, and each and every individual within PCC does that multiple times a day,” said Dr. Amanda Noska, Medical Director of the Positive Care Center. “So, we make a concerted effort to try to support one another and our patients.”

“We're all positive here,” said Patient Services Coordinator, Lashaina Jones. “We all look forward to coming here every day, seeing the patients and their smiles. Everyone from our front desk team, our medical assistants, to our providers, we all give a warm feeling to let the patients know that they are okay, they are in good hands, that they don't have anything to worry about.”

Scott Pfeifle has been a patient of Dr. Henry since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1987. He says when he started coming to the Positive Care Clinic, he immediately noticed it was a special place.

“There's no judgment involved if you come in. There's a lot of compassion and a lot of resources that you might not find at other places,” he said. “They're really nice. They know your name and they pay attention. Their level of humanity and professionalism, I can't say enough about. They've been wonderful.”

Research coordinator, Leah Westberry, said she and her colleagues work hard to create this kind of environment.

“It's not just a clinic. It really is a home,” said Leah. “People can get support and resources and bring their friends and family members if they want to have them educated about their disease. It really is that one stop shop. There isn't another clinic that offers everything that Positive Care does.”

Life-Saving Research

The PCC is grounded in a commitment to not only provide the best care, but also to advance new care models and treatments through research. This commitment has helped the Center play a role in changing the outlook for HIV patients.

Through the 1980s and in the early 90s, HIV was a death sentence. Clinics were primarily aimed at helping patients manage the disease and die with dignity. Then, in 1995, after a whirlwind global research effort, the landscape suddenly changed. That’s when the Food and Drug Administration approved the first protease inhibitor for treatment of HIV.

“I had about a 75 percent reduction in the death rate from ‘95 to ‘96 in my practice,” said Dr. Henry. “It was like a ski slope of people dying and then all of a sudden they weren’t.”

Doctors described a phenomenon called the “Lazarus Effect,” where patients who were in the final stages of hospice care received the new drugs and made miraculous recoveries. It was a game changer that prompted the Positive Care Center to evolve.

“So suddenly we were able to stop the progression of the disease, but here's 20 pills,” said Dr. Ron Schut, physician at the Positive Care Center. “We had to ask new questions. What are the obstacles to getting these into your system? How do we manage side effects?”

The new treatments ushered in new relationships with patients. Suddenly the Center was able to think beyond a five-year window for patients to look at long-term needs and quality of life. Dr. Noska says the way the PCC was able to evolve is what sets it apart today.

“We provide primary care to folks living with HIV. And I would say the vast majority of clinics treating people with HIV do not do that,” she said. “Most of the others get you on the medication and then send you to others to deal with the high blood pressure, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, whatever else might be impacting a patient. We serve both roles and it’s a heavy lift, but it's the best care. And we're all in on that.”

Treatments for HIV are continuing to evolve in ways that improve both outcomes and quality of life, and the PCC is staying on the leading edge. Today many patients take only one pill a day. The Center is also leading the way in injectable drugs that only need to be administered every month or two. Each improvement represents a step forward and a meaningful change in the lives of patients.

“When I started out taking meds, for four or five years I was taking pills every 12 hours,” said Matt Larsen. ”I told my doctor, ‘I feel like I'm on a countdown watching my life tick away 12 hours at a time?’ He understood and we changed to once a day. He absolutely was ready to accommodate that request and that adjustment for my mental and physical health.”

Addressing Needs Beyond HIV

As the virus treatments have improved, the need to address issues beyond HIV have increased. That’s why the Positive Care Center has worked to expand services aimed at addressing broader health and wellness needs. Thanks to funding from the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act, and generous support from the community, the PCC team is able to provide vital wraparound services and support to patients.

The Positive Care Center is the largest recipient of Ryan White grants in Minnesota. Patients who qualify for Ryan White funding don’t have copays on prescriptions, which can cost thousands of dollars each month. They are also not billed for their appointments.

Philanthropic support from the community answers patient urgent needs for food, clothing and appointment transportation. Team members understand all of these factors are critical in helping patients walk a tightrope to stay on track with their treatment.

“We try to let everyone know what resources are available to them in the community. We also provide direct help with clothing or with food bags catered to their cultural needs,” added Lashaina. “It’s about helping patients and knowing that you saved them in a crisis. Just to see them smile, that's the most rewarding part, seeing that I've been able to do something to help someone else.”

Making Sure Nobody is Left Behind

Of course, there are some issues that the Positive Care Center can’t completely solve. Issues of racism, homophobia, transgender discrimination and a still persistent stigma surrounding people living with HIV all present significant barriers for patients.

“There's internal stigma and there's external stigma,” explains PCC nurse, Rachael Givot.  “There's the personal shame where people think, ‘I got HIV. I'm broken.’ Then there's the external stigma where people are too afraid to tell their family or they’re worried someone will put it on Facebook and spread their status over social media. Stigma is huge and it's the hardest part of the job, for me, because it's so hurtful for people and it's something I can't fix.”

While the Center can’t eliminate these issues, the team feels their approach to care can at least provide an oasis of peace and acceptance in people’s lives.

“It takes all 76 employees and the village honestly,” said Dr. Noska. “It's really hard to pull off without the right group of people, but I'm confident we have them. Our front desk team is the heart and soul of our clinic. They know all 2,700 patients by first name even with masks on! Our medical assistants make people feel like they came home. Our nurses know how to talk people down in really unbelievable scenarios. That's the secret sauce and I'm really grateful to be a part of this group.”

“Ninety percent of what we deal with in an HIV clinic is not HIV,” said Dr. Henry. “It’s true that many of the things, there is no easy fix for, but kindness helps. It helps people come back. You can try to address one problem after the other. But I would say the glue is kindness.”

Inger Einarsson

“I come here to see my people. They really do care about me.” - Inger Einarsson

“I'll do whatever it takes,” Rachael continued. “I'll meet patients at the backdoor if they don't want to sit in the lounge. Or I'll meet them in the pharmacy and walk them down to the clinic. Now that telemedicine is available, that's helped patients a lot because sometimes it's the coming to clinic that's so hard for them. I always say, ‘I'm so happy you're here. Thanks for coming in today.’ And hopefully, eventually, we can get over some of those barriers.”

While he doesn’t have to visit as often as he used to, with his virus under control, Matt Larsen says the PCC still fills a valuable place in his heart.

“It's just so comforting and it has a familial feeling. All I can equate that too is unconditional love, which I'm only figuring that out as I say it,” he said. “It brings tears to my eyes. It was the first time in my life where I felt that from everyone who surrounded me. It still makes me emotional. It's a very powerful thing.”

As drugs and treatments continue to improve, the Positive Care Center will evolve, particularly as the HIV population starts to age. Where once they were lucky to have a patient for a few years, now they have an opportunity to develop relationships that last decades. The team members say they welcome the challenge, and they look forward to finding new ways to continue serving the needs of everyone who comes through their doors.

Originally published by Hennepin Healthcare (Summer 2021)

EMERGING THREAT/GETTING READY FOR A PANDEMIC 

You can plan. You can train. You can read and study and prepare. But when a pandemic is approaching your doorstep, you need to act. By late January 2020, employees across Hennepin Healthcare realized COVID-19 was coming and it was going to change everything. That meant everyone had to figure out how to be part of the solution.

Drawing on the experiences of hard-hit communities overseas and on the west and east coasts, staff worked to absorb the lessons of the pandemic response. Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, air-flow and ventilation needs, visitor protocols, bed and ventilator shortages...there were so many questions to answer with no time to spare.

Recognizing the need for a coordinated response, leaders opened the Incident Command Center and staff mobilized across the organization. The pandemic would soon be here.

Lab 

Listening to and learning from international connections built over years in the industry, Dr. Glen Hansen, Director of Hennepin Healthcare’s Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostic Lab, understood the urgency of placing orders for critical testing supplies and equipment. So by the time COVID-19 testing began in March, his team had already secured more than 200,000 test kits. The lab increased staffing from four to 15 full-time medical technologists and extended shifts to provide 24-hour coverage.

Lab StaffThis preparation propelled Hennepin Healthcare to the forefront of virus testing for patients, staff, and community members, with the ability to process up to 2,000 tests per day. The lab was the first in the state to provide testing for open public walk-in testing, perform saliva tests and to return results for patients in less than 24 hours.

“Getting rapid turnaround from our lab - in some cases less than 70 minutes - is crucial not only for screening asymptomatic inpatients, but also for those with symptoms whose course of care is determined by this diagnosis,” said Dr. Hansen.

Hennepin’s long tradition of excellence in medical education, research and innovation has created lasting industry relationships all over the world. These relationships become invaluable in the face of a global pandemic.

PPE and Supply Chain

From the beginning of the pandemic, it was apparent the first line of defense was not a vaccine, it was masks, gloves, goggles and ventilators. Shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were being reported around the country. Stories of doctors and nurses who had to wear the same N95 mask for entire weeks, or of Intensive Care Units that were exploring ways to have patients share ventilators, illustrated that supply chain logistics were going to be critical to saving lives.

Ppe Supply Chain EmployeesIn early January, long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, supply chain leadership started working with clinical leaders and infection control to develop a plan. They looked at data and case studies to determine needs and identify possible shortages. They had to get creative and look for new vendors to be sure they would be able to handle a possible coronavirus surge.

“It was challenging but we’re built to be proactive,” said Luis Valadez, Senior Director of Supply Chain. “We could either sit back and cross our fingers or we could step up. It was stressful but we knew that everything we brought in, every vent, every disinfectant wipe, every piece of PPE would be put to good use.”

In addition to bringing in more supplies, staff worked on protocols to be sure people knew when to use PPE and how to wear it effectively. PPE carts were stationed in patient care units along with specially trained “PPE Buddies” who helped make sure doctors and nurses were protected before entering patient rooms.

Thankfully, increased manufacturing, creative approaches to sourcing, and community donations have made PPE readily available, allowing staff to stay safe and ready to withstand the long lens of this pandemic

Trauma Response

As a Level I Trauma facility, Hennepin Healthcare had a responsibility to prepare not only for an influx of COVID-19 patients, but also to safely handle the wide variety of trauma cases that normally come through the doors. This meant that new precautions had to be put in place. Every patient suddenly had to be treated as a potential COVID-19 carrier.

Trauma Response RoomEmergency Department doctors, nurses and staff leapt into action quickly to figure out ways to keep everyone safe while providing the best possible care.

“We were able to create a completely new space, a second stabilization room, just for COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Tom Wyatt, Medical Director of the Emergency Department. “We collaborated, came up with a plan on the fly, and got it done.”

The development of new space required multiple teams working together addressing things like air flow, technology, infection control, and communication among team members who were suddenly trying to collaborate through masks and face shields.

In many ways, trauma care is all about teamwork and innovation, so when coronavirus arrived, the trauma team was ready.

Technology

The coronavirus pandemic forced healthcare providers to dramatically increase their use of digital tools. At Hennepin, this meant not only speeding up the purchase, training and rollout of technology, but also figuring out how to connect these resources with the staff and patient population.

TechnologyWhen more than 1,500 employees had to start working from home in late March, Hennepin’s Information Technology department worked around the clock to support this transition. They updated software, built infrastructure and researched various tools to allow staff to connect through more robust and secure online systems.

During this intense period, all nonessential/nonemergency clinic visits were cancelled. To be able to continue to care for our patients and make sure they did not feel abandoned, Hennepin quickly ramped up virtual care, including telemedicine and live video visits. Within 48 hours, Dr. Deepti Pandita and her informatics team created a telehealth service, answering patients’ emails through an electronic medical records portal.  Three weeks later, the service was fully running with added video and audio capabilities as well as links to video visits in Somali and Spanish.

Interpreters

When you serve a diverse population, preparing for a pandemic requires a multicultural approach. On a concrete level, this presented a problem figuring out how to communicate with patients and families who speak another language.

Interpreter Gina TestaHennepin Healthcare interpreters are used to being in patient care areas, working alongside doctors and nurses. As the coronavirus spread, they knew this would have to change.

Suddenly interpreters had to prepare for virtual visits, speaking with patients, families, nurses and doctors over a screen.

“It was quite sudden and at first. We were told we could only go on the floor in emergencies, for stabilization, and then we had to wear all the PPE,” said interpreter Gina Testa. “It takes getting used to, whether we’re wearing masks or we’re on a screen, trying to talk people through a difficult and scary time.”

With a virus like COVID-19, interpreters took on another role, helping alleviate the isolation and loneliness of patients who couldn’t have any visitors. By preparing early and adapting to the challenges, they were able to be a source of comfort for patients in the time of their greatest need.

Security

An unprecedented pandemic also calls for unprecedented efforts to maintain a safe, secure environment for patients and employees. This meant new security protocols had to be developed and executed in a matter of days.

Sergeant Jose LunaSecurity personnel had to react quickly to new guidelines that were put into place around PPE and perhaps the most challenging issue, visitor guidelines.

“It was a huge change and it happened quickly,” said Sergeant Jose Luna. “We had to lock things down and not allow any visitors. It was hard to tell families that they couldn’t visit, but I tried to always do it in a way that shows I understand and I care. I try to put myself in their place and think, ‘If that was my family how would I want to be treated and made to feel better?’”

Security personnel put in long hours closing down some entrances and making sure the hospital remained a safe place for patients and employees alike.

Hero Profiles

Luis Valadez - Senior Director of Supply Chain

Luis Valadez“I love my team and I am proud of the way they signed up for work that they had never done before. I had people volunteering to assemble testing kits. Contract specialists were helping source masks. Our leadership team was at the dock helping bring in beds and sterilizing equipment. There are no silos when we are working through a pandemic.

We have had to get outside of our comfort zones to make sure the clinical staff is comfortable with their safety when they are stepping into a room with a patient. That’s the urgency and the responsibility that we feel everyday.”

Jill Carter  - Exercise Physiologist/Cardiac Rehabilitation and “PPE Buddy”

Jill Carter“When my normal outpatient duties were taken away, I asked myself, ‘What can I do?’ I felt a need to contribute even in the chaos. We’re used to helping people everyday and it didn’t feel right to not be involved when I could do something to help at my hospital.

I got trained on how to help people with PPE and I went to the units with the COVID-19 patients to make sure all the doctors and nurses knew what to do to protect themselves.

People are putting themselves in harm’s way for patients and they’re so busy, I can help them remember to do things like tuck their cuffs into their gloves and put on their eye shields. I was worried at first people would see me as intruding and telling them what to do but people are so appreciative and collaborative.  We’re all under the gun so let’s get through it.”|

Thomas Wyatt, MD: Medical Director - Emergency Department

Thomas Wyatt“Putting on personal protective equipment is uncomfortable. It gets very warm and it makes it challenging to communicate. Masks, gowns and face shields can be barriers as you are working quickly to care for patients.  But when our team gathers together and we’re putting on our PPE, it fosters a sense of teamwork.  We game plan together and we look out for each other.

In many ways COVID-19 is presenting us with challenges we have never dealt with before. At the same time, seeing how people respond has been inspiring. Yes, we’ve seen very sick patients. But the professionalism and commitment I’ve seen shows that we are more than up for the challenge.”

Colleen Crampton - Director of Laboratories

“This was like a slow moving tornado heading our way and we had to get prepared.

Colleen CramptonWe had to think about equipment, logistics, supplies, and there were challenges nobody could have anticipated. For example, all of the swabs that we need to conduct testing for coronavirus are made in Northern Italy.  All of them. And suddenly Northern Italy was shut down.

Our team is full of problem solvers. We moved quickly to make sure we had the staff in place, the supplies we needed, and the knowledge about how to get testing done. We were one of the leaders in the state in getting our testing set up and available quickly.

I wasn’t surprised by this because we believe in Hennepin Healthcare’s mission: serving underserved populations… serving everyone.

We knew we just needed to get this done.”

Nicole Grimlie, RN: Senior Staff Nurse - Emergency Department

Nicole Grimlie“When you’re working in a stabilization room it is crowded. It can get hot and you’re there for multiple hours at a time. Wearing the PPE, the N-95 masks, you don’t really get deep breaths so you can start to feel light headed. It’s difficult to hear and people’s voices are muffled.

It’s been difficult but we have a strong teamwork approach and it’s become even stronger. We do game planning and preparation beforehand. We work on clear and concise communication. We even try to find humor and make each other smile. We all come from different backgrounds but we come together as a team.

I’m proud that, even with all the challenges, we’re still all focused on compassionate care.”

Catherine Gonzales-Klang, Interpreter

Catherine Gonzalez Klang Interpreter“It’s definitely hard as an interpreter to have to do so much remotely. I sit in my office most of the day looking at a screen and trying to help when usually I’m walking around and working in person with patients and the staff. It’s very isolating.

Usually the remote connection goes well, but there are times it’s more difficult, especially with elderly patients. One of my first patients with COVID-19 had to be intubated and was sedated and I was just trying to explain to her what was going on.

Sometimes, particularly when the patient is having a hard time breathing, I have to take a moment after a call to try to calm myself, stay strong, and not cry.”

Jose Luna, Security Officer

Jose Luna Security Officer“I was born and raised in New York so when everything started happening I got to be so nervous about whether I’d be able to see my family. Would things ever get back to normal and be like they were before?

Then I saw the way people stepped up and showed how much they cared about each other and the work we do. We all play a part and we’re all important pieces of the family. So even when we have to do things like change visiting policies and keep people apart, we’re doing it in a way that shows we understand and we’re there for the families.

We’re all part of a big family and that’s helping us do what’s needed to keep everyone safe.”

Paul Trudeau - Operations Manager

Paul Trudeau Operations Manager“We knew how important it was to get a COVID testing clinic set up and ready very quickly. It had to be separate from inpatients and close to the outside so we could easily get patients in and out.  We got to work and turned the whole thing around in two days.

That’s how we’ve managed through this whole thing.  Everyone pulls together because this is what we need to do.

When this is over people will remember the support we gave each other, the relationships that we developed across departments. It reminds us that we’re all here for the same reason: to treat the ill and make sure everyone is safe.”

Fedlu Awol, Medical Technologist

Fedlu Awol“My wife is a pharmacy technician working with COVID patients and we have two school-aged kids. We talk about it a lot and we take precautions. My kids know when I get home there is no hugging until I change first and get washed up. It’s gotten to the point that my kids ask me if I’ve washed to make sure.

I know I’m not particularly at risk at work. The virus isn’t going to jump out of the test tube and I have the PPE that I need. I’m probably more at risk going to the grocery store. Still, I think about it and there is some fear and uncertainty.

My kids are supportive. If I’m feeling bad because I couldn’t help with their homework they tell me, ‘Don’t worry.  You’re saving lives.’”