Message from Dr. Pinson: Teamwork, dedication and compassion will see us through

Colleagues,

Even though the wonderful progress of the COVID-19 vaccine has offered reassurance that control over the pandemic is somewhere on the horizon, we are in an uphill phase right now due to more than 2 months of steadily rising cases.

Like many other hospitals across the nation, we are feeling stressed.  

Currently there are more than 3,000 Tennesseans hospitalized with COVID, an all-time high. Similarly, each day for the past several weeks we have been caring for more than 170 COVID patients in our own hospitals with the bulk of these being managed in Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital.

The challenge of caring for this additional population, while also providing services to many other patients from across the region who need our care, is physically and emotionally draining for our physicians, nurses, and staff. Everyone is working harder than ever. We are responsible for an increasing number of patients requiring airway support including ventilation and ECMO to survive.

Despite the challenges associated with increased morbidity, our survival rates across all age groups remain excellent. These remarkable outcomes are further testament to the commitment and expertise of our clinical teams.

At the same time, we are caring for record numbers of patients, other teams have created and executed a sophisticated plan to enroll, schedule and vaccinate our workforce. If you have not been vaccinated yet, I strongly encourage you to take this important step to protect yourself and others.

Beginning this week, in accordance with Tennessee Department of Health guidelines, we will also begin to vaccinate our patients who are age 75 and older.

Several have commented that our annual flu vaccine event in past years, Flulapalooza, helped us prepare our organization to rapidly administer so many vaccines. But this is still very different given the massive number of patients that need to be vaccinated. This has been, and continues to be, an enormous and complex process which we are continually refining and will take many months to complete.    

Last spring allowed us to prepare for what we are doing now to care for such large numbers of COVID patients. At that time more than 1,000 employees were crossed-trained and readied to serve in different roles or different parts of the organization. With increasing numbers of our workforce sick with COVID or at home self-isolating due to household exposure we have begun enacting this plan. I understand this is uncomfortable for some in our organization to move into a different role and want to express my sincere appreciation for this "can-do" approach to work that must be done.

The Medical Center’s COVID Command Center opened the first week of March 2020 and has remained operational since. For 10 months we have met each new challenge associated with the pandemic. I have complete confidence in each of you, no matter what lies ahead. Together, we will see this through.

The teamwork, dedication and compassion on display across our organization for each of these efforts has been inspiring to witness. I’m sure we all feel that. But we also need to recognize our own stress and strain. Please provide thoughtful emotional support for yourselves and each other. Know that the Employee Assistance Program is available for individual or group care anytime it is needed.

And remember for now to wear your mask in and out of work, physically distance and wash your hands frequently.

Sincerely, C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Chief Health System Officer