RCH celebrates Hospital Week 2023

This past week, Rochelle Community Hospital celebrated National Hospital Week.

‘Getting back to normal, it's really nice to see the patients' smiles again’

ROCHELLE — This past week, Rochelle Community Hospital celebrated National Hospital Week.

Hospital Week festivities at RCH this past week included Starbucks coffee and donuts on Monday, a trail mix bar on Tuesday, Ralfie’s BBQ nachos for lunch on Wednesday, a traveling spa cart and complimentary lunch on Thursday and cookies on Friday. There were also daily gift card drawings for staff and a week-long scavenger hunt. 

“It's really just trying to make sure that we celebrate each and every one of our employees,” RCH Marketing and Public Relations Specialist Kirby Heward said. “We make sure all shifts are taken care of and that everyone is treated to something special so they can have a bit of a better, brighter day. And we share it with the community so they're aware of it and can acknowledge them as well.”

May 11 also saw the official end of the COVID-19 public health emergency statewide and nationally. RCH lifted its mask mandate midway through last month. During Hospital Week, the News-Leader also spoke with employees from various hospital departments about their pandemic experiences and what it’s been like to return to pre-COVID-19 procedures. 

RCH Registered Nurse Tina Neale of the medical surgical unit worked during the more hectic times of the pandemic when her department and RCH had to treat seriously-ill patients when larger hospitals, which would usually accept those patients from RCH, were full. 

“The past three years haven't been easy,” Neale said. “It's nice to be recognized this week. A lot of people are very thankful. Especially being in a small community. A lot of people are very thankful we're here and that we can continue to be able to treat people here. Especially with COVID-19, there were so many critical patients and so many people that were really, really sick. We were able to treat people here and it allowed us to enhance our skills as well as taking care of more critical patients.”

Neale said scaled-back restrictions and being able to see patients' faces again has been enjoyable and has allowed nurses to build stronger bonds with who they’re treating. When larger hospitals were seeing shortages of nurses, RCH was able to keep adequate staffing, Neale said. 

“Even when someone had COVID-19, other nurses or CNAs would step up and cover those shifts,” Neale said. “Even when we were overflowing to our ICU unit, we always had adequate staffing. We had really good teamwork.”

Admission Clerk Margaret Villatoro of RCH’s patient access department is responsible for greeting, interacting with and registering patients as they enter the hospital for various reasons. She’s worked at the hospital for 18 years and has found its community aspect to be enjoyable and one of RCH’s and Rochelle’s greatest strengths. 

"I've always felt like we're very fortunate to have this hospital here,” Villatoro said. “People can come in and get the help they need. I'm very fortunate to work for an organization that takes care of us. We have our regular patients that come here often and sometimes eat lunch here. We're lucky to have a close community. I think the community needs that aspect, where they can know that they can come here and feel safe and that we have the resources for them.”

Villatoro said the early stages of the pandemic were “overwhelming” for patients and staff due to the uncertainty. She’s enjoyed interactions with patients more as restrictions eased. 

“By getting back to normal, it's really nice to see the patients' smiles again,” Villatoro said. “When they were wearing masks, it was a little hard to communicate with some of the patients.”

Jacqui Ranken is RCH’s cardiopulmonary manager and manages the respiratory therapy, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and fitness center departments. The respiratory therapy department had to learn new equipment such as ventilators and take care of sicker patients during the pandemic, and rehabilitation had to be shut down for a time for patients’ safety.

“There were patients not receiving the care that they needed,” Ranken said. “Because we didn't know what was going to happen in the beginning. Our fitness center closed for a longer period of time. The general public wasn't able to access our facility for their own health and wellness. When we reopened, people had to wear masks and that was an issue for a lot of people. That going away has been pleasing for members and staff.”

Ranken said that working in a specialty that was greatly impacted by COVID-19 made coming to work on a daily basis tougher in pandemic times. She praised staff for working through it and is glad that patients are able to rehabilitate more freely without masks. 

“It's just nice to see everyone's faces again and be able to connect on that level,” Ranken said. “I think that RCH has gone above and beyond showing appreciation to staff throughout the pandemic, not just during Hospital Week. Getting that little extra recognition makes all of the staff feel that much more appreciated.”