The coronavirus outbreak has been hard-hitting on Long Island, and Islip Town ranks highly among the most infected townships here. Bay Shore’s Southside Hospital emergency depart- ment is …
The coronavirus outbreak has been hard-hitting on Long Island, and Islip Town ranks highly among the most infected townships here. Bay Shore’s Southside Hospital emergency depart- ment is treating a considerable number of COVID-19 patients. An ED nurse there, Kelly McLaughlin, pushed forth an effort to acknowledge the positive work the department — and the hospital as a whole — is producing amid the outbreak. She organized A Day of Hope on April 14 outside the hospital’s back entrance.
“I felt like my coworkers’ morale was down, so I wanted to do something to help lift everybody’s spirits,” McLaughlin said. “I went with it to my director, and she got it hospital-wide.”
McLaughlin is also the Lindenhurst High School cheerleading coach, and the team orders shirts from Bobby Tees in Amityville. She designed a shirt through the business that reads “Southside Hospital” on the front, and a heart with a cross in the middle on the back of the shirt. The heart is made of uplifting words like Hope, Strength, Teamwork and Brave. When the director of the ED, Jennifer Zeplin, sent McLaughlin’s email about organizing A Day of Hope hospital-wide, the movement received incredible support right off the bat.
“Before we knew it, we had sold over 1,600 shirts,” Zeplin said. “So we picked a day that we would all wear them, and it started out as a daylong event. All the staff came out wearing their T-shirts. It was surprising how quickly everyone jumped on board. We planned everything in a week. We did not realize how widespread it would become; we thought it was just going to be an ED event.”
The day kicked off at 7:30 a.m. and at the shift change, the organizers set up an area with a DJ playing uplifting music, a breakfast grab-and-go station as well as coffee. Speeches were then given by executives in Northwell Health, Suffolk Coun- ty executive Steve Bellone, and others. A chaplain was also there and led a prayer.
“We obviously thanked [McLaughlin],” Zeplin said. “I played a song for the group, and everybody sang along outside. We also had one of our nurses speak who was a COVID-19 survivor who returned to work to care for those in the ICU bat- tling coronavirus, tell her story.”
Afterwards, Subway donated a lunch grab-and-go for the staff. There were also Ralph’s Italian Ices for employees. Later that night, employees were given ice cream bars, and hospital executives clapped in the lobby as the night-shift employees entered the building.
“I think that everyone, whether they knew it or not, kind of needed something to look forward to and some kind of recognition of the fact that despite the scale of this and the difficulty, there are some good moments and there are some successes we have been able to achieve,” Zeplin said. “We took a moment to acknowledge all that.”
The T-shirts were distributed in several different colors, and all the staff together — though six feet apart — formed a rain- bow in the parking lot during the event. McLaughlin said that when she reached out to Bobby Tees about the shirts, she was informed that almost all the business’ orders were canceled once the out- break picked up.
“Here in the ED, we not only paid for our shirts but paid extra to donate money to [Bobby Tees]. We actually wound up donating an extra $400 on top of the 1600 shirts that we paid for through them,” McLaughlin said.