It takes a lot of heart, soul and determination to keep a hospital running
and ready to care for patients. Just ask Betty Jean Palmer, a 50-plus
year veteran of
Southeast Georgia Health System. As a supply stock technician for Supply Chain Operations, Palmer bears
witness to the daily activities that happen throughout a hospital, and
she and her co-workers do their part to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Palmer remembers the time a patient coded. “Nurses were running in
and out of the patient’s room gathering supplies. I asked what else
they needed and knew exactly where it was and gave it to them.”
Being in the right place at the right time motivates service-minded individuals
like Palmer and her co-workers. It’s a non-stop effort. When not
stocking and maintaining supplies, they handle all the hospital’s
incoming and outgoing mail.
“I think this job is incredibly important to keep the hospital running.
Imagine if a patient came into the ER and needed something very specific
for treatment, and a nurse had to spend time going to another floor to
get it. My job is to avoid that,” says Central Supply Technician
Eric Burton. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused so many shortages
we’re having to jump through hoops to get certain things. It’s
been more difficult than you’d think.”
And that’s just the logistical challenge.
The Hardest Years
In over five decades as a Health System team member, Palmer has never
experienced anything like the pandemic. “Initially, I was scared
to be on that floor,” she says, referring to the COVID-19 Unit.
“But I knew I had to get supplies up there.” She rose to the
occasion, but the task took a toll. To curtail outbreaks of the highly
contagious virus, the Health System had to restrict visitation. “They
(COVID-19 patients) don’t have family with them. That stays with
me,” Palmer says, her voice filling with emotion. “My heart
goes out to their loved ones. It’s rough.”
Coping with the coronavirus is like battling an invisible opponent. Each
new spike places greater strains on overworked health care staff. “In
times like these, everyone plays some part in keeping things as normal
as possible,” Burton says. When the virus spikes, “The Supply
Chain storeroom provides backup space for personal protective equipment
(PPE), like isolation gowns and N-95 masks.”
Fortunately, he enjoys the challenge. “I like to fix things for people.
For example, when Pediatrics moved to another floor in the hospital, their
new storage was temporary and nothing was labeled. I found a better storage
rack, reorganized it, printed new labels, and began ordering their new
supplies. The ladies in Pediatrics were so thankful. I feel that going
above and beyond really builds a great rapport with other departments
and enhances the trust others place in our department.”
A Break in the Chain
We’ve all been inconvenienced by empty grocery store shelves. When
supply chain shortages hit hospitals, however, lives are at stake. “While
nearly every business has been impacted by some supply chain or manufacturer
issue, this has become a daily issue with products and supplies hitting
our backorder reports. We frequently brainstorm with nursing leadership
to work on alternatives and provide education for new processes, so our
physicians and nursing staff are able to provide the best care for our
patients,” says Manager Alexander Campbell.
Keeping essential medical supplies on hand always required attention to
detail. The pandemic only amplified that requirement. “Our team
has to be extremely attentive to disruptions in product availability and
supply,” Campbell says. “They keep a watchful eye on supplies
to ensure that all patient floors are appropriately stocked. When there
is an issue, they reach out to me and our counterparts in Supply Chain
Procurement to resolve issues and find a solution before it reaches the
A hospital and a society cannot run without collaboration and cooperation.
Regardless of their beliefs or background, Supply Chain employees work
together to serve hospital team members and patients. Campbell urges the
public to do the same. “Please push through these hard times and
support our health care workers who are in a constant battle to better
the lives of our communities.”
Reflecting on his team’s performance over the past two years, Campbell
says, “I would like to thank my team for all the hard work they
put in, day in and day out. Without them, the success we have had in overcoming
many challenges would not have happened.” And without them, our
community would not have the lifesaving medical care it needs when it
needs it most.