As health care workers confront COVID-19, it will be the combined strength and support of our UCLA Health family and of our community that enables us to get through this.
As COVID-19 spread across the country, the physicians, nurses and staff of UCLA Health have been on the frontline of a crisis that is like nothing we have seen before.
But the mission of UCLA Health demands that we be here every day, 24 hours a day, to support and deliver care to our patients. That mission revolves around a concept we call CICARE, which is the foundation of our vision to alleviate suffering and deliver acts of kindness. While this has been an extremely difficult time — one that has created both personal and professional stress — it has been so gratifying to see how everyone has coalesced around these core values, which have inspired all of us to work in health care and to treat everyone — patients, families and each other — with compassion, dignity, understanding, patience and kindness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented situation for health care providers nationwide. But this is not the first time we have faced an epidemic. We have been challenged in the past by outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis, SARS and MERS. Even if no patient with these diseases sets foot in our hospitals or clinics, we prepare for and learn from each of these events. We build on the knowledge that we gain from each event to bolster our response for the next one, accumulating increased understanding of what we need to do to prepare. Safety for our patients and staff continues, as always, to be our foremost priority. Since the first days of this outbreak, our infectious-diseases specialists have been on high alert, monitoring the situation and regularly communicating with regional and federal agencies to coordinate our response as events evolve. Our Emerging Infectious Disease Program and the members of our highly trained infectious-diseases team work with our physicians and staff to educate everyone about necessary safety precautions, including the use of PPE (personal protective equipment), and the proper care of patients coming to us with symptoms of COVID-19. They also work to ensure that there are appropriate supplies of medical equipment and protective gear and that proper cleaning and disinfection protocols are followed.
Managing a crisis such as this truly is a team effort. From the onset, we have come together to collaborate across our health system to develop a robust hospital surge plan to meet the anticipated needs of large numbers of patients coming to us for care. Our goal has been to maximize all our physical spaces within our contiguous licensed facilities at our Ronald Reagan UCLA campus and our Santa Monica UCLA campus. If fully implemented, our multilevel surge plan would bring our total capacity to more than 1,100 beds for inpatient care. Staffing for many critical areas has been planned to assure resources consistent with the hospital surge plan. Well before the anticipated crest of this wave, we placed orders for such vital equipment as additional respirators, gurneys, IV poles and infusion pumps. And our clinical microbiology lab worked rapidly to expand its capacity and bring COVID-19 testing inhouse. You can read an interview about those efforts in the Conversation section of this issue (“Litmus Test” ).
As our teams of dedicated health care professionals and support staff pull together, it also is gratifying to see how our broader community has come together to support us. The messages of support that we have received have bolstered our spirits. Whether expressions of encouragement come from videos by LA Lakers stars like LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green or from messages Tweeted by civic leaders like Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl or from someone standing six feet away in a grocery line who thanks one of our team members for their service, they bring some light into what feels to many like a dark time.
As the songwriter Leonard Cohen said: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
That light has been shed, as well, by direct support that has helped to provide the resources necessary to continue to safely engage with patients and protect our staff. Several companies and institutions came forward to donate critically needed PPE such as N95 and surgical masks. Others made significant financial gifts to help meet our needs for PPE and ventilators and research. Organizations have been created to coordinate restaurants to provide meals for our frontline caregivers. Across our university campus, teams came together to address and solve urgent needs. These are wonderful examples of generosity and caring at this critical time. You can read more about this in the Friends section of this issue (“Philanthropic Giving Aids UCLA Clinicians Combating COVID-19”).
In a time like this, I am reminded of how proud I am of all the wonderful people we have working at every level who are touching the lives of our patients. We now are in the midst of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which honors the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, and as we salute our nurses, it also is appropriate at this challenging time to include all health care workers in our thoughts and good wishes.
The people of UCLA Health are a family. The community that supports us is a part of that family. Our strength is in our caring for one another in a time such as this. That is what makes us resilient and will ensure that we all will come out of this experience stronger.
Johnese Spisso, MPA
President, UCLA Health
CEO, UCLA Hospital System
Associate Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences