|Senior vice president of operations, Woman's Hospital|
About 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in south Louisiana, Woman's Hospital set up an emergency command center, where Jamie Haeuser watched the storm's approach.
The eye of the storm reached Plaquemines Parish in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005. Levees in New Orleans began to fail later that day, unbeknownst to Haeuser and the rest of Woman's senior management team. “The hurricane was over as far as we were concerned,” Haeuser says.
The command center was closed that night. But reports out of New Orleans the next morning said the water was rising. Haeuser began getting urgent calls on her cell phone—which was still working, somehow—from friends who worked in perinatal care [dealing with pregnant women and very young children] in the city.
Haeuser tracked down Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer, and volunteered the Woman's team to take over management of the perinatal rescue effort in New Orleans.
“He said three words,” she recalls. “'God. Bless. You.'”
Watching four Blackhawk helicopters rescue the last 29 of 122 babies saved is rivaled only by the birth of Haeuser's own children among her life-changing moments.
“The people here just pulled together in extraordinary ways,” she says, noting that Woman's had run through an evacuation drill for the neonatal intensive care unit only a few months before Katrina. “You do it every day, so you can do it when you have to.”
She says the Katrina experience will help Woman's staff manage the stress that comes with essentially picking up the entire hospital and moving it five miles south down Airline Highway. The biggest challenge of the whole process, perhaps, is figuring out how to relocate each department while keeping in mind how the pieces will fit together as a coherent whole. The move inevitably will impact the hospital's culture, if only because the layout will change and people who now see each other every day may find themselves separated in the new environment.
But there are fun aspects of the move as well. Haeuser is helping develop an artwork plan for the new building, and she says the hospital hopes to invest in pieces that will gain value over time. Meanwhile, employees have been given tiny stickers to register their opinions of the art Woman's has now. A green dot along the edge of a picture frame means that painting should make the trip, yellow says “I'm not sure,” and red means “Leave it behind.”
“When we move into a new space, things will change,” Haeuser says. “You get to the point where you have to let some things go and move on to other things.”
Haeuser is an adjunct faculty member of LSU's Public Administration Institute. She says she tries to impart two main principles of success to her graduate students. First: Always be willing to make up your own job. And the corollary to rule one: No whining allowed.
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