Dear Colleagues,

We are in the midst of one of the most challenging times of the pandemic. We are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases around the nation and here in Denver. Many communities in Colorado are increasing their risk levels and imposing tougher restrictions. We all have a responsibility to take these measures seriously, to protect loved ones and our community.

And it’s all happening with Thanksgiving and other significant holidays upon us, when we’d typically be celebrating with family and friends. This will not be a traditional holiday season, and that is heartbreaking at a time when we all need uplifting.

Our staff is working long days and extra shifts. Many will not be able to see their families. As hard as this decision will be, I encourage you to follow guidance from public health leaders and limit your interaction to those within your immediate household. Continue to wear your mask, frequently wash your hands and practice social distancing.

As I reflect on the many challenges we’re facing, I think it’s important to remember there is still much to be grateful for. Research shows practicing gratitude can improve a person’s emotional well-being.

I am grateful that a strong and effective COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available in the near future and health care workers will be some of the first to receive it.

I am thankful knowing Denver Health is better prepared than we were in the spring to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases. We’re being innovative and adding significant bed capacity throughout the hospital. Our teams have presented our surge plan to Governor Polis that demonstrates we can achieve a 50% or more increase in adult inpatient care capacity. This was no easy feat, and I am proud of the many people who helped make this happen.

In addition, department leaders in collaboration with their Human Resources partners are working tirelessly to hire more regular staff, recruit former team members and bring on temporary employees known as travelers. Those efforts along with RNs and nursing assistants who voluntarily offer to work extra shifts will help us build coverage for those extra beds.

We remain confident in our supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and continue to buy more to reinforce them.

I am thankful for the hard work of our High-Risk Infections Disease Team (HITeam) that has been providing “Confidence in PPE” clinics to train staff on the proper use of that PPE. Knowing that we have this team providing expertise and education needed to help keep our staff safe is a bright spot in a really tough situation. To date, HITeam members have held over 40 training clinics with more scheduled on WebEx. This team is helping our Denver Health family members with confidence in PPE, fostering a culture of safety, and help fighting pandemic fatigue.

I’m also grateful that The Denver Health Foundation was able to secure a substantial grant from The Anschutz Foundation for us to a purchase a new mobile health center. This unit is going to be an invaluable tool that will allow us to go directly into some of the hardest hit communities in Denver to offer COVID-19 testing and hopefully reduce rates of new cases by limiting the spread and offering important health care resources.

I’m thankful for emotional support services like RISE and hope more of you will ask for the help that is there for you. You can reach a friendly ear 24/7 by calling 303-436-RISE (7473).

I’m grateful for local restaurants that show up again and again to deliver food to workers in our COVID units.

And of course, I’m grateful for you and our family here at Denver Health. You are strong, mission-driven people full of heart.

All that said, I know this is not an easy time. Many of you are emotionally and physically spent. I hope you will have a moment to reflect on the things that you can be grateful for now, in the midst of all this.

And I hope you’ll take some time to connect with friends and family, even if it’s over the phone, FaceTime or Zoom. That connection is important, and we’re all getting through this together.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Our Secret Pal program is back. Help spread holiday cheer to your co-workers by donating gift cards to families of staff members who are going through an exceptionally challenging time. Find more information on how to help here on The Pulse.

Our new Mobile Health Center (MHC) is getting a lot of recognition for providing COVID-19 testing in some of Denver’s underserved communities. CBS4 interviewed Denver Health Nurse Practitioner, Ashley Shurley to learn more about the MHC. Watch the story here.

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported The Denver Health Foundation’s Paramedic’s Award Celebration. We estimate more than $50,000 will go to our Denver Health Paramedic Division. You can re-watch the ceremony here.

With gratitude,

Robin D. Wittenstein, Ed.D., FACHE

Chief Executive Officer

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