How I Heard

Pat, above right:

I’ll never forget the 6:50 am call I got that Sunday from an HR exec who told me our downtown ED had been flooded with dozens of victims from a nearby mass shooting — a disaster beyond anything we’d responded to before. I couldn’t imagine how intensely this was affecting our team members and physicians, and I knew that I wanted to get there ASAP to provide support where needed. Shortly after I arrived on campus and had been briefed on the basics, I made it a priority to head for our ED, surgery and Trauma/ICU departments to find out how those teams were doing and let them know that we were nearby. What I did not expect to see was that the night teams had mostly gone home and things looked unrealistically calm and organized. Knowing that I’d circle back to those departments in the hours and days ahead, I wanted to find out how some of our other departments were doing. It was clear that our Environmental Services team had done a remarkable job of cleaning up a sea of blood in our ED; our Security teams were everywhere, keeping us safe from the next possible wave of threats; and our Guest Services team was helping the growing number of distraught family members looking for wounded or deceased loved ones. It didn’t take long to see that this crisis was sending shock waves through our entire hospital system, and many other departments would be pulled into the collective response to this tragedy.


Then, an even bigger picture began to emerge: Every one of our team members was also part of our Central Florida community, and we were all shaken by the fact that some form of terrorism had crept into our own backyard. How on Earth was our small EAP team going to support dozens of departments and thousands of team members at the same time?


Mary, above left:

My phone went off at 5:00 am and the 10-minute drive to the hospital seemed an eternity. All I was told was, “We need you.” The walk to the incident command center with the HR leader gave me time to gather my thoughts and develop a plan. The request was to support the physicians. Immediately I knew the physicians were in full response mode. They would not need psychological supports yet. As I left the command center and walked through the hospital, my previous training in crisis intervention/PTSD was running through my head. The physicians and residents would not require or accept any kind of support for at least 24-48 hours post trauma. The theme that emerged for me was: Make yourself available when and where possible. I spent the next 12 hours with the families of the victims. As the time past and the traumatized family members waited, I worked alongside the guest service personnel, chaplains and EAP counselors to comfort, console, provide updates and pray. Just around noon, I connected in a back hall with the head of our EAP. We said very little but shared our mutual understanding of the magnitude of this event and that we would partner by end of day. This connection became important as we moved through the next days and weeks.