Susan MacMillan-Finlayson drove her four-wheel-drive vehicle through the streets of Baltimore about 5 Wednesday morning, with an eye out for any Mercy Medical Center staffers who might be hoofing it to work. Along the way, she picked up two reporters, three University of Maryland nurses and, finally, two Mercy employees.
"It was sleeting out, and I could not bear to see people out in it," she said. "I saw them on the side of road, they looked like they might be nurses, so I opened my window and said, 'Get on in, and let me help you.' "
Most Mercy nurses were already at the hospital or in nearby hotels, the result of early planning to ensure that the medical center stayed fully staffed even through the worst of the weather, said MacMillan-Finlayson, chief nursing officer at Mercy. Some doctors and surgical patients also stayed in hotels, and the hospital was providing free food to staff Wednesday.
At least 140 Mercy staffers stayed in the hospital overnight, some in empty patient beds. Another 80 to 100 stayed in nearby hotels where, for many, there was a slumber party-like atmosphere.
Several nurses from the Intensive Care Unit shared a room at the Tremont.
"We knew we had to make it back," said Colleen Moore, a registered nurse who lives in Federal Hill. "We knew we couldn't not be here."
But staying in the hotel meant that nurses who are often too busy to socialize on the job got plenty of time to catch up while they were having dinner at Mick O'Shea's or sharing rooms.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Amanda Davis, a clinical nurse. "We're taking it and turning it into a good thing."
Fifteen nurses from the medical surgical unit on the 14th floor stayed at the Hampton Inn. They described putting plastic "patient belongings" bags over their shoes before they trudged down Calvert Street to their hotel.
Despite the fun and the camaraderie, the nurses all agreed that it was their duty to be at the hospital, no matter what the weather.
"We pull together to keep the hospital operational," said Gloria Onejeme, a nurse on the surgical floor.
"It's just part of the job," said MaryBeth Locke, a nurse for 24 years. "When you sign on, you know that hospitals don't shut down."
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