The hospital CEO described the COVID-19 pandemic — and the surge that hit New Jersey’s hospitals in the spring — in a way few others had done before.
“We’ve been preaching health care as a team sport for so long,” he started. “Then, and all of a sudden, it became a reality and a matter of survival. We had to work together in multidisciplinary teams during that first wave in a way I had never seen before in my decades of doing this.
“People talk about heroes — I’ll be honest with you, the heroes are all the people who simply came to work every day and did what they are trained to do. And I’m not just talking about the doctors and nurses. They certainly deserve recognition. But there are people with different duties and skill-sets that we don’t talk enough about who came to the forefront.
“We couldn’t provide care without respiratory therapists — the people who operate the ventilators. We couldn’t provide care without the environmental services professionals — specially trained professionals who had to clean the rooms to make sure they were safe for the next patient that was coming through.”
The list of unsung heroes grew as he talked.
“Security had to step up and keep everyone safe, because visitation rules were different,” he said. “Imagine being the one having those discussions with a family member who wants to see their loved one?
“Think about the people in materials management, the people on the loading dock — the folks that made sure (personal protective equipment) got to us and then got to the front line. We can’t provide care without them.
“Think about the biomedical engineering folks who check the equipment before it’s used on the next patient. Think about the facilities management folks who had to rebuild the inside of our hospitals almost overnight.
“We have thousands of people who work in our system — some are volunteers, some are consultants, some are full time, and some are part time. I know it sounds trite, but it’s so true — all of them were essential. Everyone had to work together to survive this.”
When we were putting together the 2020 ROI Influencers: Health Care list, we knew it had to be different.
New Jersey hospitals were on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic in its opening days, weeks, months. That needed to be represented.
The hospital CEO quoted above — the type of person that normally gets all the credit — asked not to be identified. He wanted others to get a shot at the spotlight.
That’s why we added a special category: Unsung heroes. They are 50 staffers from 50 hospitals and health systems around the state. The behind-the-scenes folks who stepped up to help us survive the first wave.
You’ll be overwhelmed by their stories. And know that all were selected by their peers — which is the ultimate recognition. We put them first in our book.
Of course, we couldn’t have a list without the top health care doctors and executives involved in the critical care. Our A to Z rankings of those “Hospital heroes” include many familiar faces — but also many of the leaders that rarely are mentioned outside of the walls of their hospital. We wanted to give them to get time in the spotlight, too.
We also have a “Industry heroes” list for those who stepped up on the issues surrounding the care: testing, the search for a vaccine and the insurers — who changed the way the system worked in the middle of the crisis to ensure more people got more coverage more easily.
We also have a spot for government officials. This is a public health crisis unlike any that any of us have seen. Elected officials and their staff took the lead from the start — we identified key players at the various levels and in various roles.
We’re proud of this list. It recognizes well over 100 professionals — many of whom will be new names to even industry insiders.
Our only regret is that we can’t honor more.
At its heart, ROI-NJ is a business publication, covering the issues that impact companies, industries and sectors up and down the state. And the leader of any business or organization will be quick to point out: The company is only as good as the people who work there.
This list honors just some of the health care heroes who stepped up in our greatest time of need. Many are the unsung heroes of our greatest health care challenge. All were essential.