For Angela Sims, the proper response to a pandemic like COVID-19 for a hospital like hers is to put the front-line workers where they belong—out front.
That’s what they did at her Boston-area Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Milton, in Milton, Mass. As the planning chief for her hospital’s incident command center, Sims, a three-time Xavier graduate, has been spent the last two months working with teams to make sure the hospital has all the proper systems in place, including drive-up testing and enough protective gear for the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who come in direct contact with patients.
“I assisted in setting up our central supply which is how we manage all the PPE (personal protective equipment) distribution so that we have one direct repository that staff can come to, and it’s regulated so we know when we’re getting low,” Sims said.
So far, it’s worked. They have not run out of PPE.
Sims thrives on managing multiple projects, which is what responding to and getting ahead of the pandemic has been like for her. But a pandemic is not what she had in mind when she went to Boston for her residency to work for two of the community hospitals in the Beth Israel Lahey system of 13 hospitals.
In April 2018, even before her residency ended, Sims was hired full time as the performance improvement manager for Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Milton. She was responsible for monitoring patient safety, facilitating groups on multiple hospital initiatives and maintaining regulatory compliance at the federal, state and local levels.
But when the pandemic hit, she was also made planning chief for the Incident Command Center as well as helping communicate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She said her 2016 degree in biophysics and her dual master’s degrees in Business Administration and Health Services Administration she completed in 2018 were excellent preparation for her role in the pandemic—though it’s one she never imagined for herself.
“Never in a million years did I think this was something I would be doing,” she said. “But I like bringing order to chaos, so this allowed me to continue to use those skills. My physics background allows me to have an analytical problem-solving mindset where I can see the different ways we can go and evaluate the best strategy. And my MHSA and MBA give me business acumen and health-care awareness needed to navigate this environment.”
In her dual roles at Beth Israel, she organizes projects and supports the teams to execute to achieve the hospital’s goals. Her priority is keeping the patients and staff safe, and response to COVID-19 has morphed her role into organizing the hospital’s PPE Central Supply, tracking what supplies are having the highest PPE usage.
“Being able to identify and plan those out early has been really beneficial,” she said. “All the hospitals in our system come together on a weekly basis or more and talk about concerns and share where we’re low on supplies. If we’re not getting normal supplies from vendors, we can tell the system what we’re low on, and the system has a central repository to draw from. We were one of the first hospitals to start this central distribution system, and we have been able to have a solid handle on it to prevent any real shortages. Getting through a pandemic is really a team effort.”
One of her favorite projects is managing a donations program, including three meals a day seven days a week supplied by The Boston Globe and local restaurants. She sets up the distribution of the meals and information for the staff.
“To have staff come to you and be so grateful to have a free hot lunch or on weekends, cookies or other things given to them, that is a huge reward, to see the heroes on the front lines just having a moment of relief,” she said. “Doing the food distribution allows me to connect with the people who are treating patients, and I can talk to them and make sure they’re okay and provide some personal connection for them.”
The other reward for Sims is when she lines up in the hallways with all the rest of the staff to clap for patients who have recovered and are going home. “It’s awesome,” she said. “Even for us at the leadership level, it’s rewarding to stand there next to the doctors and nurses and celebrate these patients’ successful recovery.”
By France Sloat, Office of Marketing and Communications