Whenever something truly terrible happens on a large scale somewhere in our nation — whether it’s Newtown, Boston, Charleston, San Bernardino or one of the hundreds of other communities shaken in recent years by acts of human cruelty and violence — our editors and writers always look for the hospital angle. We report on how the local hospital immediately goes into crisis mode by sending staff to the scene, freeing up the emergency department, and making sure there are enough beds, supplies and personnel to meet the awful challenge.
Our stories often focus on those we call “heroes of the homefront.” That’s typically taken to mean the first responders at the scene and the clinicians back in the ED who jump into place to treat the casualties and, in the process, save lives.
Watching health care professionals respond to the massacre in San Bernardino in December, it occurred to me that it’s not just front-line staff who should be called heroes, though they certainly deserve that accolade. It’s the hard work of executives and the board of trustees that keeps a hospital viable and thriving, and in a position to respond to such catastrophes in the first place. Without their leadership — both in the nitty-gritty of strategic planning and in nurturing a sense of mission and commitment to the community — the hospital and its staff would not have the wherewithal to respond at all.
It’s a new year, and we can only hope that in 2016 our nation sees far, far fewer instances of human beings visiting unspeakable horror onto other human beings. The harsh reality, however, is that hatred — fueled by religious fanatics half a world away or by jingoistic politicians here at home — will too often erupt into violence. If there is any comfort to be had at all, it’s in knowing that the local hospital, thanks to everyone who strives to keep it strong — from front-line workers to administrators, to members of the board — is always prepared to care for the wounded, to soothe the distraught and to offer a reeling community the critical reassurance it craves simply by its own steady example.