With resources at Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital stretched thin, much like emergency departments across the state, the cavalry was called in to assist.
Ten service members of the National Guard are now working out of VWCH’s main and McFarland campuses to offer some relief to hospital staff. The objective, according to Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Seaborn, a Lebanon native, is called “force multiplication.”
“We brought in all sorts of administrative personnel,” he said, each from different backgrounds with varying skill sets.
Seaborn explained that the average healthcare provider’s shift encompasses far more tasks than simply providing healthcare to a sick patient. These tasks can include everything from restocking personal protective equipment at each room in the ICU, to assisting with clerical duties to just taking out the trash.
“If I or another of my crew can take that task off a healthcare worker’s to-do list, than we’ve freed them up to allocate more time to patient care,” he said.
That means more man hours assisting patients and more health care being provided.
As a lead administrator over the project, Seaborn is tasked with making sure the service members under his command are taken care off.
“I make sure they have all the resources they need, and a roof over their heads,” he said.
Not all the National Guard are from as close by as Seaborn, so accommodations had to be made to get them here.
VWCH Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Huggins, said that under these “extraordinary times, we appreciate all the hard work that our staff, from nurses to pharmacists to technicians, have done to take care of patients. This has been a situation none of us could have prepared for or expected, so it’s been extraordinary to watch everyone rise to the occasion.”
“That said, the requirements from the patients have caused us to reach beyond our traditional boundaries,” Huggins said of the National Guard. “They have tirelessly helped support us and done everything we have asked them in a gracious and professional manner and we know they have been helping to improve the outcomes of our patients.”
Seaborn said since the guard had started operating in hospitals the reception had been overwhelmingly positive.
“People coming up to us and thanking us for our service,” he said.
The sergeant said that whenever he hears that from patients or family members of patients, he reminds them that it’s not he who deserves the credit or any of the National Guardsmen but the men and women frontline healthcare workers.
Audrey Kuntz, a nurse and surgical unit manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that the National Guard has really stepped up and helped out in situations where the hospital staff can’t be in two places at once.
“That was really key to us, we have to connect with our patients and families. Whether they are calling out because nurses have to be somewhere else, to have someone present to say ‘hey, how can I help you?’ is a huge, huge help to us,” she said of having the National Guard on standby.
Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital is hardly the only facility around the state being assisted by the National Guard. Seaborn said the National Guard had previously been deployed to testing and vaccination sites but are being moved more and more into hospitals as ICUs fill up with sick patients.