Hope Huddles

Emily Fawcett, RN initiated the Hope Huddles program at Lenox Hill Hospital Photo: Lee Wiessman, Northwell Health

Hope Huddles connects front-line nurses amid COVID-19 crisis

A new program initiated by Emily Fawcett, RN, the daily meeting among emergency department nurses has provided closure and optimism after they treat coronavirus patients

Emily Fawcett, RN, is a float nurse working on one of Lenox Hill Hospital’s COVID-19 units. But she started a recent shift in the emergency department to help launch an initiative that promises to provide positivity to her fellow front-line health care workers — something she calls “Hope Huddles.”

Shift changes in an emergency department are marked by a quick meeting of departing and arriving nurses. Called a “huddle,” nurse leaders review cases and the events of the prior shift to ensure smooth transition of patient care. But before digging into the details, Nurse Manager Silvia Cota turned it over to Ms. Fawcett and another nurse working on a COVID-19 unit.

“We’ve had five  in the last few days,” said Catherine Chaplin, RN, who also works on a COVID-19 unit. “I extubated a young man who, by the end of the day, was asking me out — so he’s doing OK.”

Pinched between drawn curtains and a bustling nurse’s station, Ms. Fawcett watched as her idea — spurred by recent late-night group texts with her friends in the emergency department — took shape.

“We just want to say thank you,” said Ms. Chaplan, closing out her portion of the Hope Huddle. “You guys are doing an amazing job. We couldn’t do this without one another, so stay safe, stay sane and thank you all.”

Emily Fawcett, Natalya Alishayev (float) and Stephanie Calderon (PACU) review COVID-19 cases. Photo: Lee Weissman, Northwell Health.

Emergency department nurses and doctors remember every patient they intubate, Christen Cudina, RN, assistant nurse manager of Lenox Hill’s emergency department, said. And particularly these days as they treat those suffering the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

“They were expressing how upset they’ve been, seeing all of these COVID-19-positive patients coming through the emergency department, very sick and having to be intubated and moved to the next level of care,” Ms. Fawcett said of her friends in the emergency department. “They never know what happens to them.”

To close that loop and help her friends find some solace, Ms. Fawcett realized she could provide those answers.

“I see those patients,” she said. “Every day I hear little stories of patients getting better; of people getting off ventilators; of people being able to reunite with their families after weeks of not seeing them.”

Hope Huddles are an addition to the regular huddle in the emergency department, where a unit nurse comes down to share stories of patients recovering — a side of the story most nurses often don’t see or hear about. And this dose of positivity and optimism is exactly what nurses, doctors and the entire staff need right now, Ms. Cudina said.

“It’s a time of camaraderie and we’re all kind of rallying together and checking in on one another and making sure we’re taking care of ourselves, as well as taking care of everybody else,” she said. “And the Hope Huddle gives us the positivity to keep going, and keep serving, and keep doing what we do best here.”

Answering the call to serve is nothing new for Ms. Fawcett, who was one of 27 Northwell employees who assisted the disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria — a category 5 storm — devastated the island in 2017. She is also a board member, clinic coordinator and trip leader for Crossing Thresholds, a mobile medical clinic serving the Kibera Slum in Nairobi Kenya — the second largest slum in the world.

Back at Lenox Hill, she now plays a critical role in a new crisis, which has claimed New York as it epicenter in the United States.

“I see New Yorkers banding together, I have friends and family. And now complete strangers, giving food to us nurses every single day,” she said. “I think New Yorkers, they feel for us. They want to be connected to the front line workers, and obviously they can’t be. So, they are finding ways to give us hope, and give us strength. So I am hopeful. All I can be right now is hopeful.”

And she spread that hope during the first Hope Huddle, accented by several rounds of applause for positive — and even some funny — stories, and the news of COVID-19 patients recovering and going home. Cathy Fogarty, senior director of patient care services at Lenox Hill Hospital, said she has witnessed similar reactions on the COVID-19 units.

“We’ve never done this before,” she said. “But to really get a sense of calm I just walk to the units that are caring for these patients and they give me a tremendous sense of calm, because they are doing a fabulous job under these very difficult circumstances, supporting one another and providing the highest quality of care to these patients. It makes me very proud.”

Hope Huddles will be done regularly in the Lenox Hill emergency department and Ms. Fawcett hopes it will be adopted in other EDs across Northwell Health.

“I hope this spreads hope and light around our hospital, around Northwell and to the community at large,” she said.

The story of Hope Huddles is from Northwell Health’s inspiring stories.

To read more about Emily Fawcett and to understand some of what she experienced during the first weeks of the pandemic outbreak read A Daily Diary on the Front Lines.

Return to the Salute to Northwell.

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