Janice Collignon points out several times that Materials Management, her unassumingly named department at Bethesda Hospital, is only one part of a big team that keeps the hospital going. Materials Management buys, stocks and keeps track of every single item used in the hospital, from bandages to surgical instruments. The department also includes a full-service print shop for brochures, business cards and — what hospital would be complete without them? — forms for patients to fill out. The former Kentuckian has spent most of her life in Florida and worked her way up the materials management system at three local hospitals. When hurricanes come, Collignon and her team go into hyperdrive.
Q. How did you find yourself on this career path?
A. I started back in sterile processing, washing and sterilizing surgical kits and putting them together. I worked at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, then Delray Medical Center for 20 years. I’ve been here at Bethesda for 10 years.
Q. What do you keep in your warehouse?
A. Everything: Band-Aids, alcohol, peroxide, IV sets, “Baby in a Box,” the kit for C-sections. Everything.
Q. How do you keep track of all those items?
A. It’s all automated. A nurse will log in with her employee ID number. She will pick out a probe, say, scan the patient ID and touch a little button that deducts it from the inventory and charges the patient. That’s how we know which items to replace.
Q. How does the routine change for a hurricane?
A. We normally keep three days’ worth of supplies on hand, we then go to five days’ worth. When we know a storm is approaching, hospital administration is in contact with Palm Beach County and keeping us updated. We have a pre- and post-hurricane schedule. I stock armbands for staff to wear, so everyone is accounted for. The hospital is not a designated shelter, but we switch our conference center into a day-care center for employees on duty. There is even a pet shelter. When we go “Code Delta,” for disaster, everyone has so many hours to get to the building. They stay until we are cleared to leave safely by the county and administration.
We cancel elective surgeries, we are trying to discharge as many people as we can.
Q. What’s the atmosphere at the hospital during “Code Delta?”
A. I like working under pressure. In health care, we’re always in that mode. It truly is a team effort. Everybody knows their job. We are checking backup generators and other equipment. All of us know what to do.
Q. Sometimes you must have to improvise.
A. We learn something every time. When the gas stations couldn’t pump gas, we contracted with a gas station to fill our vehicles and to keep our employees’ cars filled. Once we lost power in the warehouse, so I brought my generator from home and ran it. We used the computers at the hospital.