At Gulfport Rehabilitation Center in the Tampa Bay area and Golfcrest HealthCARE Center in South Florida, once the decision was made to evacuate due to Hurricane Irma, teams were mobilized and preparations began. Many staff members put off preparing their own homes in order to come to work and serve their residents. Many staff remained in place with the residents throughout their six-day evacuation — for almost a full week, in the midst of a devastating hurricane, they left their families, their homes, and their lives so they could care for others.
Two staff members typified the dedicated responses at the two nursing centers:
- Ashley, Golfcrest’s quality of life director, was six months pregnant at the time. Her strength inspired others to pull through the many difficult tasks transporting residents in and out of the facility.
- Erik, a therapist at Gulfport, recently moved to Florida from California. Irma was his first experience preparing for a hurricane, and he immediately jumped to assist the center and its residents.
Other staff from both care centers spent hour after hour in the laundromat washing and drying linens. This seemingly small task gave residents comfort and confidence throughout the storm, a sign of normalcy amid all the disruption.
Peninsula Care & Rehabilitation Center (Tarpon Springs)
At Peninsula Care & Rehabilitation, selflessness led staff and the community through preparations and the storm’s darkest moments. The Friday before the storm hit, it was extremely difficult to find gas, as pumps at gas stations throughout the area were wrapped in plastic signifying the pumps were dry. When a staff member was scheduled to work the weekend was unable to make it work to assist the residents, the Peninsula Care family mobilized.
Jen in the business office had some gas at her home. She didn’t hesitate to return home and share with her coworker. Tarelle, an occupational therapist, then drove to the stranded coworker’s home to personally deliver the gas. By going above and beyond, Jen and Tarelle showed benevolence to their coworker and compassion for the center’s residents during storm preparation.
After Irma, the Tarpon Springs High School football team unloaded residents and supplies and assisted in the cleanup.
Signature HealthCARE of Port Charlotte (Port Charlotte)
At Signature HealthCARE of Port Charlotte, positivity helped the staff and residents continue to provide exceptional care for residents throughout the storm. Karla, a staff member, accompanied residents and staff as they evacuated to a sister facility, rolling up her sleeves and delivering calm leadership, giving care to residents day and night.
A recently hired certified nursing assistant (CNA) did not hesitate to evacuate with the center’s residents and never left their side. She was right in the middle of loading and unloading the bus, projecting a positive attitude the entire time.
Families of residents also came to help during the evacuation. They worked alongside the staff in preparing supplies and keeping a positive attitude alongside residents. Hurricane Irma inspired a team approach from everyone, and as a result, the center’s residents made it through the storm with as little disruption as possible.
Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach (Lake Worth)
At Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach, individuals came together as a team for the health and well-being of their patients. Cathy stands out as one of many heroes during this time, as she went above and beyond to help residents. She provided incontinent care, helped with meals, and fed residents, staying with the residents from the time they evacuated until they returned to their center. Never complaining. Cathy did not stop — she was always doing something to help, showing dedication and positivity even as sweat poured off her.
Pre-storm preparation was an all-hands-on-deck operation. Sean led the team in securing the building, putting up shutters, testing the generator, and double-checking that all disaster-related supplies were on hand. His dedication led him to spend nights at the facility preparing for Irma, away from his home and his family
Preparing meals for everyone becomes of utmost importance during an emergency, and the entire dietary staff at Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach rose to the occasion. Though the kitchen was the hottest part of the entire building, staff’s perseverance never wavered. Every meal was prepared with love (and more than a little sweat) and provided to the residents.
After the storm, while others worked constantly to return power to the center, Denise, an administrator at a sister Signature facility in Ormond Beach, selflessly chose late one evening to load up her car and drive three hours to deliver much-needed ice to Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach. It takes a team during a storm, and a team certainly came together at Signature HealthCARE of Palm Beach.
Signature HealthCARE of Brookwood Gardens (Homestead)
Although her title is administrator, Sophia Fyffe served tirelessly as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for eight hours every day throughout Hurricane Irma — whatever it took to care for and protect her residents. The residents stayed in the building and proceeded with daily activities, enjoying a cool picnic activity thanks to some well-placed fans. Meanwhile, Sophia and her team worked aggressively with the local community to have power restored and get the building back to normal operations as quickly as possible.
Signature HealthCARE of Ormond (Ormond Beach)
At Signature HealthCARE of Ormond, Rashara Smith, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), didn’t envision her first day on the job unfolding quite the way it did. As Hurricane Irma made its way into Florida, Smith made her way into Signature HealthCARE of Ormond for her first day on the job.
While some locations worried about being short-staffed through Irma, the staff at Signature HealthCARE of Ormond pulled together to keep each of their residents safe and healthy throughout the storm. Smith, for example, stepped up and worked long hours for two days straight to care for and protect residents she had just met. After Irma, she now feels a strong bond with the residents she cared for, and with the coworkers with whom she weathered the storm.
Heritage Park Care and Rehabilitation Center (Bradenton)
As Hurricane Irma headed up the Florida peninsula, Heritage Park Care and Rehabilitation Center rallied together with its sister facility, Signature HealthCARE of Port Charlotte, to protect and care for residents. Before the storm hit, residents of the Port Charlotte center safely evacuated to Heritage Park. Throughout the storm, staff continued to keep residents’ safety and care as their top priority. Many team members left their own homes and families to help deliver Port Charlotte residents to the Heritage Park facility.
At Heritage Park, nurses work 12-hour shifts. For example, Priscilla, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Heritage Park, worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday — and then volunteered to come back in at 7 a.m. Monday morning. Priscilla lives in Palmetto, which required her to travel across the Manatee River Bridge to get to Heritage Park. However, authorities had closed both bridges that connect Palmetto and Bradenton, and law enforcement officers threatened to jail Priscilla if she attempted to cross either bridge. Determined to help Heritage Park’s residents, Priscilla called her administrator while she talked with officers at the bridge. Unable to change the officer’s’ mind, Priscilla drove far out of her way to Interstate 75, avoided the bridges, and made it work two hours later, ready to care for her patients.