Hackensack University Medical Center Nurse Manager Megan Weinman inspires us to raise funds for front-line healthcare workers.
It was sad for us to cancel our live annual awards dinner which was scheduled for November 5, 2020. But I underestimated what CJ and his team could do as the event will now take place virtually. Last week we announced that we will be raising funds for Hackensack Meridian Health’s Circle of Compassion to benefit frontline workers and I wanted to share with you what’s behind that decision.
As you now, we launched a “#BusinessAsUnusual” t-shirt campaign several months ago to raise funds for Hackensack University Medical Center’s COVID-19 Response Fund for frontline workers which will fund the newly formed Circle of Compassion program. We felt it was the right thing to do given how hard our area was hit with the coronavirus and the sacrifices by frontline workers. Thanks to Ricoh for printing over 500 t-shirts and Carol Cannata who took care of the design and shipping. We asked the people receiving the t-shirt to take a picture of themselves wearing it and post it on Twitter. For every photo posted, we would donate $25.
Once we decided we were having a virtual awards event, we immediately recognized that HUMC’s Circle of Compassion would be a wonderful charity to continue to support. We sent out solicitation letters to individuals and vendors of all kinds asking them to contribute.
The Circle of Compassion program was created by Hackensack Meridian Health to provide aid for frontline nurses, allied health professionals, and EMS workers who are faced with emergent and temporary financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between the t-shirt effort and the solicitation, the response has been more than good. Asking people for money during a pandemic is generally a license to fail. However, we never doubted the resiliency of our industry, the manufacturers, dealers, software developers, and leasing companies, along with supplies and parts distributors who stepped up.
Which leads us to our 35th Awards Charity. What better way to tell the story of our fundraising efforts than to interview one of the nurses who have served so heroically?
We reached out to HUMC and they arranged for us to interview Megan Weinman, nurse manager. She earned a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2013 from Rutgers, joined HUMC in 2014, and was promoted to nurse manager of the Urology and Abdominal Transplant Unit in 2018. Megan earned a Masters in Nursing this year from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Because CJ and Scott preferred we do a video of my interview, we will be editing it and posting it soon on our website. What I would like to do now is share some of the more poignant moments of the conversation I had with Megan.
Above: Six of HUMC’s front-line workers in an upbeat mood.
As a nurse manager, Megan oversees 42 people who are responsible for 19 patients. Her unit focuses on cancer-related issues and transplants. This group has handled 113 kidney transplants. We asked Megan what the toughest part the hospital has been dealing with since February.
“In February everything we were dealing with was mostly unknown and it took us to about March 15 when we restructured our organization to better deal with the situation,” she said.
For Megan, this meant not seeing her staff every day and not knowing how they were faring personally. What she knew was that wearing masks all day and every day with shields was extremely uncomfortable. Add to that the fear of contracting the virus or worse still, infecting your own family.
HMH went from 14 to 200 patients on ventilators in ICUs and the hospital was running out of beds. The hospital converted the cafeteria to 70 beds with filters installed. As a manager, Megan remained concerned with how the staff was doing and was comforted by the counseling service the hospital was providing.
Above: A motivational display celebrating the number of COVID patients discharged from HUMC.
One of the many things Megan was grateful for were the volunteers that came from other areas to help. What most impressed her was the way the different teams collaborated as if they had been working together for a long time.
We asked her how this experience personally affected the nurses and EMTs?
“This experience personally affected nurses (And EMTs I would assume) as it was something we had never seen before,” said Megan. “There were so many unknowns. It was the fear of those unknowns that challenged us yet allowed us to demonstrate our strength, teamwork, and resilience to provide the best care and save so many lives.”
It is obvious to me that Megan is proud of her profession and the thing that personally troubled her was not being able to go to school.
“My career is my passion and to care for my patients,” she said. “The hours were restructured, and we were asked to work on Sundays. There was not enough time to take care of the things that are so necessary for those nurses, many of whom have children at home.”
Above: The staff at UMHC claps out the 1,000 patient as he leaves the hospital.
What was she most proud of?
“The 1,000 patients that were discharged and able to go to rehab and get back to living,” said Megan with a smile. “We had a white board with the number of discharged patients affected with COVID. We would line up and cheer them out the door. Also, the Fire Department did a drive by that was truly special.”
What was the most difficult time she had to endure?
“March and April were the hardest until we started closing (COVID) units and the nurses were reassigned,” she said with some sadness. “I had to keep my distance from my family, stay in hotels and maintain social distancing,”
This is a woman who has lost her mother at a young age and a brother from a drug overdose. She has endured a great deal of personal suffering. Carol was sitting in on the interview which we conducted via Zoom, and I gathered? we showed how sorry we were for the hardship and suffering that Megan has had to endure.
“When I am working in the transplant unit it represents a kind of healing for me,” she said, telling us in her own way, “I am OK.”
Above: HUMC staff applaud as they send another recovered patient back home.
As a journalist that has been interviewing people for 35 plus years, it was an honor to interview Megan. She is a hero in every sense of the word and both Carol and I believe she is one very special kind of person.
Catch the video when it is posted and if you want to help those that have dealt with this difficult tragedy that killed more than 210,000 people in 8 months here is what you need to do.
Give a donation to help these American heroes. Give whatever you can and write a check to Hackensack UMC Foundation and send to The Cannata Report PO BOX 180 Hamburg, NJ 07419. You will receive an acknowledgement from HUMC. No amount is too small or too big.
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