Front-Line Hero "Q and A" with Dr. Allison Bollinger who serves as Vice President of Emergency Services for Ascension and lives in Nashville.
Q: For you as a healthcare worker, what does this pandemic feel like?
A: I have a unique role because I oversee 150 emergency departments across Ascension and I also work clinically in the ER as an Emergency Department physician. Preparing all of our Emergency Department's for the surge of patients that we predict to see is very overwhelming. Some of our ministries are already dealing with that surge, and hearing their stories is very concerning. The Emergency Department's in Tennessee have not experienced that surge yet, so there is an uncomfortable anticipation as we await the surge to happen to us. We are rapidly preparing here for what we expect to see very soon.
Q: What are you doing to keep yourself safe?
A: My family and I are staying at home. We order food and groceries. We are not interacting with others, except virtually. We have to set an example for the rest of our friends, families, and neighbors. With a surge expected in TN in the next few weeks, now is the most pivotal time for us to decrease the number of people who are contracting this virus.
Q: Healthcare workers are being called "unsung heroes" by many; how does that make you feel?
A: I don't deserve that title. I am working from home for the most part. I work very few clinical Emergency Department shifts. I am safe most of the time and have time to replenish and recover in between shifts. The real heroes are the ones who are putting in long hours regularly on the front line. The doctors, advanced practice providers, nurses, techs, and support staff (like transport and environmental services) who are subjecting themselves to this invisible war on a daily basis are the real heroes.
Q: Do you feel that your team is making a difference?
A: Absolutely. I am grateful to oversee the Emergency Department services team for Ascension. We have a very strong collaborative group of Emergency Department leaders all across the country who are trying to help our hospitals and emergency departments prepare for every possible worst case scenario. We are putting in long hours trying to give all the tools and every ounce of support that we can to our frontline providers in this scary and uncertain time. I am grateful to be leading those efforts.
Q: What is the main message you want the public to know/understand during this time?
A: They have the most important role to play in what happens in this story. The medical community does not currently have a cure for this virus, the only tool we currently have to significantly impact the number of deaths is social distancing. Every time they decide to stay home and distance themselves from others they are making a decision to decrease the spread of this invisible threat that could impact them and so many others. We will likely see a massive surge of cases in TN in the coming weeks. Every decision they make right now will play a sizable role in how well we weather that storm. We need the public to help us just as much as we are trying to help them.