March 27, 2020

Message from Dr. Jeff Balser, President and CEO, about additional guidance issued to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure


Hi, everyone.

As many of you are seeing in the news, this pandemic is hitting some areas of our country, like New York City, very hard. We hope that Nashville’s “Safer at Home” order will reduce the impact we see at VUMC. Nonetheless, the number of patients admitted to our adult hospital has doubled over the past week to nearly 20. So, we continue to prepare for a difficult time ahead.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

This week we issued additional guidance to minimize the risk of exposure for people working in patient care and in non-patient care areas. And we have an institution-wide effort to redeploy as many people as we can for crisis management and support — again, including people who work in clinical and in non-clinical roles.

Just a few examples — more than 1,600 nurses with administrative roles are receiving refresher training so they can assist with patient care. Scientists from our research laboratories are now helping us in the clinical laboratory, and in our COVID-19 drug development efforts. These … and many other inspiring “all in this together” actions will sustain us in the days to come. Thank you for being flexible, for jumping in, and helping out.

In the middle of these enormous challenges, we should pause and celebrate successes. More than 10,000 on-site clinic visits have been cancelled or delayed, but in just a week we are seeing well over 1,000 outpatients each day through the My Health at Vanderbilt telehealth platform. This is a sea change in how we can give better access to patients and provide much-needed care. It reflects incredible teamwork involving a myriad of groups all working together. And it’s just one example of how we’re adapting and changing in fundamental ways that impact how we work and deliver care — during this crisis and for years to come.

As we all adjust to how this crisis is affecting our lives at work, we also need to recognize the impact on life at home. Many VUMC people have family members who are losing jobs. Some have loved ones who are infected with coronavirus, or might have been, and are experiencing the strains of quarantine, along with the anxieties we all have about becoming sick.

These problems are real and will grow over the coming weeks. What I can say is there is no place better to be in a terrible storm, particularly a public health storm like this, than here — at VUMC. Your resilience, your character, and your creative energy are simply unmatched, and we will get through this together.

I’m hearing from people all over this region expressing their support and gratitude — for what you are doing — now and in the coming weeks.

Millions are counting on us. Please take good care of yourselves.

We’ll talk again soon.