As they always do in times of crisis, the women and men of America’s hospitals and health systems showed selfless dedication, honed skills and compassionate caring in dealing with the natural and manmade disasters that rocked the nation in 2017. For example:
- In southeast Texas and Louisiana, they moved quickly to evacuate patients and ensure their safety as Hurricane Harvey pounded the coast with record rainfall and rising floodwaters.
- In Florida and the Southeast, they treated the injured and sheltered their neighborhoods as Hurricane Irma’s strong winds and storm surge dealt a hard blow.
- In Las Vegas, their dedication to training, partnership with local law enforcement, and quick action prevented the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history from claiming even more lives.
- In Northern California, they worked tirelessly to care for and evacuate patients ahead of raging wildfires, even as many of their own homes and loved ones were threatened.
- And in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it will take months to recover from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Maria, they continue to work under unbelievably difficult circumstances to care for patients and their communities.
No matter the obstacles, the people of America’s hospitals and health systems responded selflessly — as they always do — in continuing to provide vital services for all in need. They showed again and again what is really behind the H on the blue-and-white roadside signs in communities across the country — not just buildings and equipment, but the inherent human strength of people who care.
The work of hospital caregivers is special and, in many ways, sacred. The core of what a hospital does is taking care of people, one patient at a time. The laying on of skilled hands, reinforced by the power of the heart and mind, and carried out in the finest ethic of curing and caring, is what makes hospitals and health systems the special places they are.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, hospital caregivers provide the highest level of care for every surgery, every broken bone and every birth. They hold patients’ hands and offer words of reassurance. They provide follow-up care and ensure that treatment plans are being followed. They offer hope.
And they demonstrate their caring and commitment in other ways. Every day in thousands of towns and cities, hospitals and health systems are working quietly and effectively to listen to the communities they serve, and to reach out and work with others to benefit and strengthen the quality of life. Their reward is knowing that community members feel that the hospital is part of their hometown, making its own special contributions.
No, it is not our facilities, technology or even cutting-edge research that provide care. It is the quality of our people — volunteers and professionals alike — and their dedication to serving our patients.
Be proud of the gift that you bring to your community each and every day throughout the year.
I hope you had a happy and safe holiday season.
Rick Pollack is the president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.