Barbie Stewart, RN, MSN, CNL, NE-BC, keeps an air mattress and spare bedding in her office in case of the unexpected.
As clinical director of Le Bonheur’s Emergency Department, she stays ready to spend the night on campus to offer staffing support or help during a crisis. But when a severe winter storm blanketed the city with more than half a foot of snow and ice earlier this year, Stewart became just one of thousands of frontline workers struggling to navigate perilous commutes and seeking safe overnight alternatives.
Thankfully, FedExFamilyHouse is located just across the street from Le Bonheur, and has served as a home away from home for more than 260,000 patient family members since opening in 2010.
In a typical year, FedExFamilyHouse provides a safe haven for about 4,400 Le Bonheur patient families, but according to House leadership, this year’s winter storm was the first time hospital employees have sought urgent lodging assistance.
Nevertheless, staff at FedExFamilyHouse did not miss a beat when preparing to house dozens of Le Bonheur employees along with patient families. Several team members packed overnight bags and reported to work before the storm hit, battening down the hatches and bracing for a week of double shifts and atypical tasks. One such staffer was FedExFamilyHouse Guest Service Manager Stephanie Green.
“Our front desk agents were facing transportation challenges, so my teammate Allen and I decided to stay the week to make sure someone was here to greet new arrivals, help families with any issues, coordinate check-ins for hospital employees and address any questions or needs,” said Green. “Everybody worked together to take care of our families, and hospital staff were really appreciative of the help getting to Le Bonheur safely.”
Heavy snow began falling on Valentine’s Day, and by that evening, Le Bonheur employees were checking in at FedExFamilyHouse to ensure seamless morning commutes and minimal disruptions to patient care.
One group seeking shelter: Le Bonheur nurses serving as escorts for a national nursing accreditation site visit, conducted virtually via guided tablet tours scheduled during the storm week. Others housed included bedside nurses, critical care nursing leaders and key logistics and operations staffers.
Le Bonheur’s Nursing Administration team worked tirelessly fielding accommodation requests and coordinating rooms all week for staff and physicians at the House and throughout the hospital.
“I am so proud of our team for showing up and keeping the House running — from our laundry attendant, Feris, who stayed to clean rooms to our maintenance crew member, Darius, who spent the week shoveling snow and putting down salt so families and staff could travel back and forth safely,” said FedExFamilyHouse General Manager Cayce Starr. “We weathered the storm and came out stronger because we were all in it together.”
I am so proud of our team for showing up and keeping the House running — from our laundry attendant, Feris, who stayed to clean rooms to our maintenance crew member, Darius, who spent the week shoveling snow and putting down salt so families and staff could travel back and forth safely. We weathered the storm and came out stronger because we were all in it together.
Stewart, meanwhile, enjoyed a restful reprieve from her air mattress, spending one night in an empty patient room at the hospital before relocating to FedExFamilyHouse for four additional nights.
“We make a commitment to our patients, families and communities to be here for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Stewart. “To enable our staff to report to work without the stress or danger of driving on icy roads was such a blessing.”
Prior to her overnight stay, Stewart had visited FedExFamilyHouse only once to attend a meeting, and she was amazed by the caliber of the accommodations, from the beautiful rooms to the wide array of comforting amenities.
“I thought about what these rooms have seen and the stories they could tell while I was sheltered from the winter storm,” Stewart remarked. “It was such a gift to experience even a small portion of the respite, relaxation and solace provided for our families when they need it most.”
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