by Bobby Anderson, RN, Staff Writer
A million raindrops interrupted the planned ribbon cutting for the new helipad at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital the last week of September.
The local chamber of commerce was there to ensure a ribbon would indeed be cut. And while the small gathering huddled under the ER portico drinking coffee, eating muffins and lamenting the weather, all Clinical Nurse Manager Liz Lambert, RN, could do was smile.
“It’s very exciting,” Lambert said, wrapped in a patient blanket to fight off the chill of a rainy, 52-degree September morning.
The day was planned to celebrate the completion of a more than $200,000 project that would literally pave the way for the hospital to be able to safely accept more patients.
Ironically, it was for this kind of wet, gray day that the helipad was truly designed.
“The helicopters still landed out there with no helipad,” Lambert said of the formerly open grassy area just a few feet outside of the ER. “We would try to push the gurney through the mud to get the patients off.”
“We did it. Whatever we had to do to take care of the patients. Now we have a safer way to get them in.”
Historically, nurses would have mud up to their ankles trying to push gurneys in after rain storms.
It was a less-than-ideal situation to say the least.
“The community really supported the idea of getting a helipad,” Lambert said. “Our own volunteer services raised $25,000 to donate towards the project.”
“It’s a better resource for the outlying communities to have a place to stop so they don’t have to go to the metro. We can take those higher acuity patients now and safely get them from the chopper to the building. It’s a huge step up for us and the whole West side of the state.”
Lambert came in to her role during the middle of the project some eight months ago.
With 20 years in emergency medicine, Lambert was most recently the chief clinical officer for a metro long term acute care facility.
“ER is something you just are. It’s part of who you are and people know that about you,” she said. “For me, it’s always where I’ve fit in.”
Coming into Canadian Valley, she quickly realized she wasn’t there to be a change agent.
“We have a well-equipped dedicated team of nurses who are truly passionate about doing better,” Lambert said. “It sounds cliche but we truly have that here.
“As somebody from the outside coming in to Integris and looking at the team we have I was a little awestruck that I had people who truly care – not just show up for a paycheck.”
“I started here proud of the team that was in place. That doesn’t happen very often. New managers usually come in and need to change things and I didn’t.”
Lambert credited her predecessor, Valerie Austin, MBA, BSN, RN, with putting together an amazing team. Austin, who was a former flight nurse, was also a driving force behind getting the hospital a helipad.
Now it’s full speed ahead for a hospital that prides itself as being the best first option for nearly the entire western half of the state.
“It feels like that sometimes,” Lambert laughed. “It can be overwhelming but it’s also enlightening to know that that’s what we are for them. When they think about where they are going to go to get help we’re the first place they think about. For a small community hospital that’s huge.
“We’re doing really well and this helipad is just another sign we’re doing a great job and we have a lot to offer.”
In the future, Lambert says she would like to help the hospital pursue a stroke designation. Getting the cath lab up and running to the point of viability is another goal, given that patients are having to go into the metro for those interventions.
“My long term goal is to get some of those things in place so we can keep some more of those patients in-house and really advance our practice as an ER,” she said.
And that means rain or shine.