SWMC Real People – Exceeding Patient Expectations

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SWMC’s Response to the October Fires

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By SWMC CNO/COO Barbara Vogelsang

On the morning of October 9th, SWMC had four Med Surg patients and one ICU patient. There was a total of six registered nurses in house. When we received word that Santa Rosa was burning, those nurses who had been there for a 12-hour shift didn’t leave. They’d work for hours into the day shift. Our Nursing Director came in at 3 am and the CEO was here by 5am. The day shift nurses arrived with their pets and family members who had been evacuated from their homes to care for an unknown number of patients who would be arriving from local hospitals that were threatened by fire.

The patients arrived via ambulance and by bus. Patients came to the Emergency Department with burns and life-threatening conditions that could not be cared for at SWMC but were not turned away. They were stabilized in our ICU and prepared for transport by helicopter to tertiary care centers. While weather conditions prevented their extraction by air, two critical patients were sent to San Francisco for further life saving care. They were saved only by the response of the staff in the Emergency Department at SWMC and the ICU physician and staff.

The single housekeeping staff member on site (because the others either lost their homes, or were fleeing from the fire with their families) and the facilities manager began preparing the patient rooms to accommodate two people each as the patients arrived in buses.

At the end of the first day, SWMC admitted 21 patients, saw 51 patients in the Emergency Department, triaged and discharged 12 patients, many of whom were newly homeless and required special arrangements to shelters.

Over the next 12 days:
• Volunteer nurses, physicians and lab personnel came to help.
• Our auxiliary arranged extra coverage, worked in the kitchen with nursing leaders and assisted with providing clothing for patients who had none. They partnered with our HR team to establish an on-site child care for employees whose children were not able to go to school.
• The hospital cared for three & four times the average number of patients for these 12 days. This meant continual monitoring of medical gases, linens, beds, patient food, and supplies, all of which were frequently in short supply.
• Hospital employees made trips to other facilities to acquire necessary supplies like IV pumps, tubing and specialty items to care for patients that we don’t normally see.
• SWMC with the help of the Foundation provided assistance to six employees and their families who lost their homes and provided replacement vacation hours for those missing work due to the fires.

The fires and SWMC’s response to the fires has proven that this hospital is absolutely, necessary in this community. The outpouring of support from the numerous community businesses in the form of food for employees working long hours exemplifies the community’s passion behind having the hospital in place.

Lives are saved here daily. Compassionate care is provided to patients from all walks of life here daily. And on October 9, 2017, Sonoma West Medical Center excelled in providing a community with quality care when others could not.

The Love of a Dog – Canine Therapy at SWMC

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Beginning June 1, patients at Sonoma West Medical Center can expect a whole new level of caring, and the difference will be made with the start of a new canine therapy program.  Coordinated by Deborah Ard, R.N., the canine therapy program is something the staff has wanted to implement since the beginning.  “We’ve already become accustomed to having Dr. Gude’s wonderful dog, Charlie, here a couple of times a week.  The patients and the staff just love seeing Charlie pad down the corridors.  I wanted to do something that was a real program.” IMG_5547

For most people, visiting a hospital can be both stressful and taxing on their emotions.  No matter how nice your surroundings are – for a hospital – you are most likely feeling worried, lonely, possibly tired and stressed from your condition.  Now imagine a sweet dog with golden fur and its smiling human ‘handler’ appear in your doorway offering you a visit.  You spend some time stroking the dog’s fur, while he rests his head on your lap.  You start to feel a little less stressed and a little more optimistic as each stroke lessens your worry and discomfort.

This feeling of ease is just what the team at Sonoma West Medical Center and a canine therapy program called Creating Wellness want to create for patients and their families. Creating Wellness is a non-profit therapy dog program; founded 30 years ago by Roz Morris. The program trains volunteers and their dogs to work together to provide comfort to patients and family members in hospital settings.  “I put this program together because I wanted to make a difference in patients’ lives, with the love of a dog,” explained Morris.

Roz has established relationships with 38 care facilities in Sonoma and Marin Counties to ‘Create Wellness’ for the patients…and to help facilitate healing, using all the unconditional love that a dog has to give. With this mission statement in mind, Roz began the journey to re-establish this program at Sonoma West Medical Center.  The therapeutic benefits of dogs are becoming more of a regular occurrence in hospitals, care facilities, university campuses, and even airports.  Studies have shown that dogs are a depression antidote, lower blood pressure and help people maintain positive attitudes.  With this in mind, it is the hope that these therapy dogs help those recovering in hospitals, heal faster and healthier.  Petting a dog, or any animal, can lower blood pressure and ease stress.

IMG_5540For the next few weeks of May, Rody, Gabi and one other therapy dog will be taking courses with Deb Ard, learning just how to interact with patients, their families and even the staff at the hospital.  Rody is a golden labradoodle and Gabi is a grey labradoodle.  Both dogs have a combined 17 years of canine therapy experience between them.  Gabi has been a certified therapy dog for one year; however, she has seven years of uncertified experience providing unconditional love and healing to people in various care facilities, according to her owner Liz Hagen.  Liz and Gabi plan to work together in the waiting rooms to ease stress of family members awaiting news.  Gabi will work closely with supporting Sonoma West Medical Center staff as well, to ease their stress.

Rody, an energetic dog, has been working as a therapy dog since he was a pup, providing stress reducing snuggles at a bigger hospital, until his handler Rick recently decided to bring him to Sonoma West Medical Center.  While I was meeting Rody, a young patient walked by with her nurse, wearing a hospital gown and pulling her IV pole beside her.  Without hesitation, Rody trotted right up to her, tail wagging to offer his head for a pat.  She giggled as she gently leaned over to run her fingers through his fur.  It was easy to see that this chance encounter with Rody left the patient feeling uplifted as she walked away smiling.

For more about Creating Wellness, please visit:

http://www.creating-wellness.net