In difficult times, some people rise to meet the moment, selflessly dedicating themselves to doing all they can to help where needed. Across Northern California, many healthcare workers rose to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic – and some went even further, demonstrating leadership and excellence in a time of great uncertainty.
One such leader was recently awarded the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in recognition of her work coordinating the COVID-19 vaccination program for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s healthcare workers. Alta Bates Summit is part of the Sutter Health network of healthcare.
As the deadly worldwide pandemic raged in the fall of 2020, welcome news finally broke — the Pfizer vaccine, the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency use authorization in the United States, would soon be available to help protect healthcare workers.
But who best to lead the effort to organize an efficient and safe process to vaccinate thousands of healthcare workers at Alta Bates Summit’s three campuses?
Nurse Brings Process Improvement Expertise to COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
In her regular job, Laura Bonelli, R.N., BSN, is a Lean consultant at Alta Bates Summit who brings together cross-functional teams to develop simple solutions for common obstacles that may negatively impact patient care delivery – part of the ongoing work across the Sutter network to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Bonelli’s unique mix of nursing and Lean training, in addition to her leadership skills, were quickly recognized as the ideal combination to lead the vaccination effort.
With only about a week to plan the rollout before the medical center received its first vaccine delivery, Bonelli worked with pharmacy, information systems, environmental services, facilities and supply chain teams at Alta Bates Summit and across the Sutter integrated network to develop an efficient and safe process to give the two-dose vaccination to the healthcare workers.
Together, Bonelli and the vaccination workgroup created an online registration process, planned for deployment of the Pfizer vaccine (which required ultra-low temperature storage and precise thawing and handling), organized safe and efficient spaces in which to vaccinate large numbers of people, and staffed multiple vaccination clinics for a workforce spread across three campuses and working three shifts. It was, as Bonelli describes it, an exercise in logistical gymnastics as the workgroup juggled vaccine, scheduling and minimizing waste of precious doses – and that was before the Moderna vaccine was also granted emergency use authorization and the logistical challenges multiplied.
In his nomination of Bonelli for the DAISY Award, Michael Federico, director of pharmacy at Alta Bates Summit, wrote, “The purpose of a Lean consultant is to create more value with fewer resources. The purpose of a nurse is to promote patient health through consultation, advocacy and education. Laura could not be a truer blend of these two purposes in her ability to identify where value creation meets compassionate caring and where process improvement will enhance the lives of our patients.”
According to Federico, Bonelli ensured the online vaccination sign-up process worked smoothly, kept the pharmacy team undated on vaccine volumes, tracked vaccination supplies and acted as a troubleshooter for people who needed help navigating the registration process. She even put her nursing license to work and volunteered to give shots to ensure the maximum number of healthcare workers were vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Says Bonelli, who has been a nurse for 11 years, “Taking care of people is why I became a nurse, and it was truly an honor for me to be able to give back to our frontline workers and help keep them safe.”
Teamwork Essential for Success
Teamwork was an essential part of the vaccination clinics’ success, says Bonelli. In addition to the unflagging efforts of the vaccination workgroup, she credits Alta Bates Summit’s nursing managers with stepping up to keep the vaccination clinics running smoothly.
“We have so many great nurses at Alta Bates Summit, and to even be nominated for the DAISY Award was an honor,” Bonelli said. “I believe this DAISY Award is for everybody who participated in the vaccine clinics and who put their heart and soul into the work. It was truly a team effort.”
Adds Federico: “We know that much of this success would not have been possible without Laura leading the way. Her dedication, compassion and ingenuity are truly inspiring!”
Bonelli credits nursing and executive leaders at Alta Bates Summit and Eden Medical Center, where she was a nurse manager for two years before joining Alta Bates Summit as a Lean consultant, with encouraging her to develop her leadership skills. She in turn encourages nurses to become leaders in their units and be the positive change they’d like to see.
“My job is to make continuous improvements at Alta Bates Summit,” she said, “to make it an even better place to work and a great place for our patients to get care.”