Where COVID Gets Real

Fall 2020 As Seen in Our Fall 2020 Issue
Where COVID Gets Real

Johns Hopkins leaders Deborah Baker and LeighAnn Sidone share perspectives on the fight of their lives for the series ‘Reflections of a CNO’

To LeighAnn Sidone, CNO and now acting president of the 223-bed Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, her facility is “a little hidden gem where you can get complex care close to home.” It’s a quaint if right-on description of a place where “a unique culture and spirit” makes Sidone the head of a health care family as much as a boss. Then an outbreak of COVID-19 in Montgomery County threatened to tear that community fabric to shreds.

Sidone remembers the refrigerated “morgue” trucks showing up outside the hospital, standing ready for a number of deaths previously unseen at Suburban or many other hospitals. Already, her staff had been asked to work to exhaustion, across unfamiliar units, in an atmosphere of uncertainty if not outright fear. And she made a decision: Neither floor nurses nor support staff would be the ones to transport COVID victims to these trailers—they would focus on the living, and on keeping themselves safe. Sidone herself, with other hospital leaders, would lead the somber exercise.

It is an episode she says she won’t ever forget, and she’s sure her team won’t either.

Deborah Baker, senior vice president of nursing for Johns Hopkins Health System and vice president of nursing and patient care services at Johns Hopkins Hospital, saw very early that COVID-19 would test her organization, and that the world would be looking to Johns Hopkins for how to respond. She and her leadership team left no room for missteps or misinterpretation. “When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we shut down certain parts of the hospital so we could treat COVID patients and contain the virus as much as possible,” Baker explains.

Having weathered the initial surge, and with a new one likely to coincide with the onset of flu season, Baker and her team stood even more ready. “This time we are really focused on being able to treat COVID patients without having to shut down other areas of our hospitals. We want to maintain full capacity to provide emergency care and treat patients with chronic conditions. So we will continue to observe safety protocols and build our capacity to treat all patients who need care.”

Read more “Reflections of a CNO” at magazine.nursing.jhu.edu/bakercno.

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