Reflections from Front Line: Unity, Teamwork and Compassion Prevail

A short documentary, “Reflections From the COVID-19 Front Line,” features a behind-the-scenes look at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including candid reflections from hospital leaders and staff on their experiences.

The documentary captures the essence of this historic time at one of the nation’s top academic hospitals by providing a window into the coordinated and compassionate response by the Brigham community to the unexpected and unprecedented public health emergency that began with a novel coronavirus outbreak in January, became a state of emergency in Massachusetts in March, and was declared a world-wide pandemic a few days later.

Nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment and supplies. An anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. Personal health concerns and fear of spreading the virus. The teams on the front lines at the Brigham faced unprecedented challenges as they worked to care for COVID-19 patients and protect themselves. At peak volume, 171 COVID patients were admitted to the Brigham. Intensive care units saw a total of 86 COVID patients, and more than 100 patients hospital-wide were on ventilators during the height of the surge.

Through it all, many staff say what they will most remember is how everyone came together to support one another.

Some reflections from Brigham leadership:

  • “This is here. It is real. It is going to be a crisis. We don’t know where it’s headed. But we absolutely need to be prepared for the unknown.” — Betsy Nabel, MD, President, Brigham Health.
  • “When we realized that this was going to be real, that it was going to be big, that it was going to command all of the resources, and effort, and creativity, and intellect, and logistical management that we could muster, I think we all paused then and looked up the side of the mountain and felt the enormity of it.” — Ron M. Walls, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
  • What would we do if we didn’t have enough ventilators to go around for all of our patients. What would we do if we didn’t have enough ICU beds? Why was it that our disadvantaged patients were more likely to get COVID-19? Why was it that they were more likely to die and what could we do to prevent that from happening? Could we make sure that the care that we were delivering, the research that we were delivering was equitably spread to all of our patients?” — Sunil Eappen, MD, Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs & Chief Medical Officer.
  • “I remember coming together in January when the first threat of COVID was emerging on a global scale and we started pulling a group together to say what would we need to do to prepare in the event that this ever became a reality.” — Charles A. Morris, MD, Vice President Medical Affairs, and Associate Chief Medical Officer; COVID-19 co-Incident Commander.
  • “We certainly didn’t know how long or how vast the experience would be. What we all did know was that it was going to be hard, it was going to be challenging.” — Julia Sinclair, Senior Vice President, Inpatient Care and Clinical Services; COVID-19 co-Incident Commander.

The documentary was shown to staff today during a hospital-wide day of reflection, called “Grateful Together.” The day was dedicated to honoring the contributions of nearly 20,000 Brigham employees for their COVID-19 response and to thank every member of the Brigham community for their hard work, courage and deep commitment in helping all impacted by COVID-19. The day began with a flag raising and included broadcasts of virtual events, featuring a retrospective of the community’s response and words of thanks from hospital and community leaders.

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