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Staffing a pandemic

  • Season: Season 2
  • Posted On:
  • Featuring: Sean Collins

Call them Unsung Heroes, call them Essential Workers, today we talk with some of the people whose mission-critical work keeps our hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and home health care open during a pandemic.

Last spring, Cylix Shane and some other engineers, using off-the-shelf parts, built a prototype emergency ventilator that could be readily-deployed during the pandemic. “We have some rural hospitals that wouldn’t have access to ventilators if they had a surge in patients, so we wanted to be able to allow them to configure one rapidly using parts they could get locally.” Total cost: about $250.


Cylix Shane

Design & Construction Manager

Providence St. Joseph Health

Spokane, Wash.

Heather Martin leads a team of 14 medical librarians who support the work of Providence caregivers in seven states. She says that 75% of her work this past year has been staying on top of research focused on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the treatment of COVID-19. On average, she sees around 1,200 to 1,500 peer-reviewer articles each week, which she prioritizes and passes on to Providence clinicians. “They can do their own research and find evidence, but I’d much rather my doctor was spending time reading the article rather than spending time in a database when they have librarians to do that.”

Heather Martin


System Library Services


Astoria, Ore.

Donell Grayer is sous chef at Providence Marionwood, a skilled nursing facility in Issaquah, Wash. He says the staff does a good job looking out for each other and credits the facility for being on top of safety protocols for residents and staff. “I felt like I was more protected there because we took the measures to make sure everyone was safe. We were on top of it kind of early and I thank my facility for that.”

Donell Grayer

Sous Chef

Providence Marionwood

Issaquah, Wash.

Getting personal protection equipment (PPE) to where it is needed is a full-time job for Erik Teeter, who says he takes seriously the “other duties as assigned” clause in his contract because he wants the best for his colleagues. “I’m good friends with a lot of our nurses, and chaplains, and social workers, and hospice aides, and billing personnel. These are my coworkers, my friends, my work family. I want to make sure they’re all safe.”

Erik Teeter

Materials Management Supervisor

Home and Community Care

Providence St. Joseph Health

Seattle, Wash.

Patty Pomi has had to get creative. She is a hospice volunteer at the Hospice of Petaluma in Northern California. She’s not allowed to visit in person, but she’s been calling regularly and hand-making cards with rubber stamps, flowers, or pictures of her new puppy. “They (patients) definitely miss their families. It makes me sad.”

Patty Pomi

Patient Care Volunteer

Hospice of Petaluma

Petaluma, Calif.


Dave Baker and his team keep computer-based platforms running at St. Mary's Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif. It’s critical work that should be out of view. “When someone turns on the faucet they shouldn’t have to think about the pipe. You should just get water. We are the pipe.”


Dave Baker

Information Services End User Support Supervisor

Providence St. Mary Medical Center

Apple Valley, Calif.

“You can no longer see the smile.” Life with PPE has made Lisa Macia’s work more complicated, but she believes patients have a right to hospice care. And so she goes into their homes, risking her own safety, to be sure they receive that care.

Lisa Macias

Home Health Aide

Memorial Hospice

Santa Rosa, Calif.


Randy Amatto is a maintenance engineer at Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Wash. He spent the first part of the pandemic re-working heating, ventilation and air conditioning in hospital rooms to create negative air flow to keep staff and patients safe in the pandemic. “The nurses - they are the ones who are on the front lines every day. If we get a call it’s a pleasure to do what we can for the rest of the staff in the hospital.” 

Randy Amatto

Maintenance Engineer

Providence Holy Family Hospital

Spokane, Wash.

Wayne Pierce has just a few moments to build rapport with patients at the Providence Portland Medical Center where he provides patient transportation. And he does as they journey together. “There is a heightened state of emotion. And that can morph into fatigue. It’s a shared emotional circumstance that’s being shared by us — the staff of the hospital — and also the family, and the patient.”

Wayne Pierce

Patient Transportation

Providence Portland Medical Center

Portland, Ore.