In a manicured garden tucked away off main street, half a dozen volunteers from Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket (PASCON) came together to share the colors of spring with those most in need, by preparing bouquets of daffodils for over 40 patients living with serious illnesses throughout Nantucket.
While far from the bedside of patients, the gathering was a moment for these dedicated volunteers to support patients on Nantucket with the level of personal connection and charm that Nantucketers have come to recognize as a key feature of PASCON and the Palliative and Supportive Care Department at Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
“Palliative care is specialized medical care for people impacted by serious illness with the goal of improving quality of life for both the patient and the family,” said Debbie Dolan, Nurse Practitioner and Manager of the Palliative and Supportive Care Department at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “These volunteers are truly the backbone of the program and are the members providing much of the support to the patients, families caregivers and community, this gesture is just another example of that support.”
The special occasion marked the first time in over two years that the PASCON volunteers had come together, after being limited to video calls and emails since the early days of the pandemic.
It wasn’t long after the pandemic began when it became clear Boston-area hospitals couldn’t handle the daily overload of COVID-19 patients – something had to be done. That’s when Jeanette Ives Erickson received a call.
“I received a phone call from Peter Slavin, who was the president of Mass General Hospital at the time,” said Ives Erickson, “and he began to share with me the vision for Boston Hope.”
Dr. Ives Erickson had recently retired from the hospital after more than two decades as its vice president for patient care and chief nurse. But with the country’s largest public health crisis in a century looming, she was being asked by the Mass General Brigham healthcare system to become co-medical and operations director of the new 1,000-bed Boston Hope field hospital to treat overflow patients that area hospitals could not accommodate.
“I knew immediately I need to get into the fight. I think we all felt as if we needed to do something,” said Ives Erickson, Interim President and CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “I said, ‘I’m in. What do I do now?’”
Ives Erickson and her team quickly hired the people to staff Boston Hope, which was set up at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport.
“We hired 1,000 employees – people in our community that could have stayed home because their clinics were closed, their businesses were closed,” said Ives Erickson. “They came to the Convention Center each and every day.”
Over the course of several months, Ives Erickson regularly put in 12-hour days, working with nurses, checking in with patients, and lending her expertise as needed. More than 700 recovering patients and unsheltered homeless individuals were treated at the Boston Hope field hospital.
Then in 2021, Ives Erickson was tapped again, this time to help lead the COVID-19 vaccination site at Mass General Brigham’s Assembly Row headquarters.
“At the time, I didn’t think I did anything special,” said Ives Erickson. “I simply answered the call because that’s what we nurses do.”
For her efforts at the field hospital, as well as for leading the COVID-19 vaccination site, Ives Erickson was recognized as a Nursing Hero by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Red Cross. The second annual Boston Heroes Breakfast was held virtually on March 23.
“I’m not a hero. Let’s start there. I’m not a hero,” said Ives Erickson. “Those providing direct care and the patients themselves are the heroes. I was the facilitator.”
“As I look back on it, being called upon to help the region get through the pandemic with the Boston Hope field hospital and the COVID-19 vaccination site were among the high
lights of my career,” she said. “It is an absolute honor to be recognized this way by such an esteemed organizations as the American Red Cross.”
This is the latest recognition of Ives Erickson’s work during the pandemic. In 2020, she was named to the Boston Business Journal’s Power 50 list of influential leaders “who have met the extraordinary challenges of [the] year head on.”
Last year, she was the only nurse recognized among several physicians and CEOs in a Boston Globe article about female trailblazers in health care during the pandemic.
(February 16, 2022) – Nantucket Cottage Hospital has recently been recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Rural and Community Hospitals by the Charis Center for Rural Health.
“This designation is another affirmation that the work our staff is undertaking here at Nantucket Cottage Hospital is paying off and yielding real results for our patients and the entire island community,” said Gary Shaw, President and CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “Our community can look at this recognition and know that when they step through the doors of NCH, they are receiving the highest quality of care by our team of remarkable clinicians and support staff.”
The recognition marks the first time in NCH’s history it has been recognized as a Top 100 Rural and Community Hospital. The designation is based on eight metrics, ranging from patient outcomes and quality, to cost and financial efficiency.
“Despite unprecedented adversity rural providers continue to display resiliency and a steadfast commitment to their communities,” said Michael Topchik, National Leader, The Chartis Center for Rural Health. “Particularly in light of the extraordinary challenges facing America’s rural health safety net.”
The U.S. Census Bureau notes that about 60 million, or one in five, Americans live in rural settings, and are served by rural hospitals. Since 2010, over 130 of these rural hospitals have closed due to challenges such as low patient volume and financial efficiency, issues that have led other rural hospitals to reduce service and limit patient care.
“It’s been a hard few years for rural hospitals,” said Shaw. “Despite the nationwide trend of rural hospitals limiting services, our staff has been able to increase the number of the life changing services offered, here on island, by leveraging our Mass General Brigham affiliation, and attracting a diverse set of new providers and clinicians to Nantucket.”
Last week Nantucket Cottage Hospital welcomed Deborah Moss-Gail, Nurse Practitioner, as one of the island’s newest family medicine providers at NCH’s primary care clinic.
Prior to joining NCH, Deborah was a professor at Temple University College of Public Health’s Department of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is joined on Nantucket by her husband, Bryant Gail, and their 18-month old daughter Hannah.
“Nantucket is an incredibly special place to our family,” said Moss-Gail. “My husband’s grandmother lived here for 40 years, so he grew up spending every holiday and summer on the island, now, having the opportunity to practice medicine here and raise our daughter here was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
As a fluent Spanish speaker, Deborah spent nearly a decade practicing medicine in Federally Qualified Health Centers, providing care to underserved populations in North Philadelphia.
“I’ve worked in underserved communities where immigration status and language barriers inhibited patients from seeking care and it really presents a unique challenge for both the patients and the providers,” said Moss-Gail. “It demands a level of creativity and commitment to the patient, to really understand them and their individual needs, so I’m really looking forward to learning more about our community’s health needs.”
After years of caring for diverse communities with their own unique barriers to care, Deborah is quick to acknowledge the limits of her own understanding of underserved communities.
“Putting yourself in a position to learn and listen is the best place to start when joining a new community,” said Deborah. “Patients need someone that will listen to them, understand them, and value what they care about.”
For Deborah, while the longstanding connections to Nantucket were a strong factor for making this island her new home, the potential of working with the diverse array of patients that call Nantucket home was the single greatest factor motivating her.
“That’s real primary care, and it’s what excites me the most coming here, applying that creativity and willingness to learn, to find treatments and work with patients to find solutions that work best for them,” said Deborah.
“Deborah’s addition to Nantucket Cottage Hospital comes at a time when we’re redesigning primary care here on Nantucket,” said Gary Shaw, President and CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “With Deborah in our clinic, we’re able to expand the number of appointments available to the public, reduce wait times and fulfill our commitment to every member of our community, by having a primary care provider uniquely able to understand our diverse community and provide the care best suited for each individual patient.”
Last week Nantucket Cottage Hospital welcomed Dr. Alexinna Johns as Nantucket’s newest year-round primary care doctor.
“When I first came to Nantucket, and met the team, it seemed serendipitous, Nantucket is such an amazing and diverse community, and being given the opportunity to learn about these patients and help navigate their care path is truly a gift,” said Dr. Johns.
Born in Sierra Leone, Dr. Johns, migrated to the United States with her family at a young age, nearly four decades ago, before attending the University of California, Riverside, where she graduated with honors followed by medical school at Ross University’s School of Medicine.
“I believe my background unintentionally prepared me for this role, growing up and understanding strife and struggle really gives you a wider perspective on the human experience,” said Dr. Johns. “My experience helps me understand the patient at a more personal level and allows me to better navigate their care.”
As a member of NCH, Dr. Johns will be practicing full spectrum family medicine with obstetrics at NCH’s outpatient clinic with an added focus on addiction medicine.
“Coming to Nantucket, I’m most excited about broadening my skills and being able to practice OB and addiction medicine again,” said Dr. Johns. “There is something inspiring about being able to walk someone through the journey of whole person healing in the recovery process and working in OB is like being part of a miracle every day.”
Prior to joining NCH, Dr. Johns lived in Puyallup, Washington, where she previously practiced family medicine and geriatrics at Western State Hospital. Prior to her practice at Western State Hospital, she spent nine years as a faculty member of the Family Medicine Residency Program at East Pierce Family Medicine.
“The addition of Dr. Johns to our exceptional line-up of island doctors is part of our enduring commitment to delivering the best whole person care possible to our Nantucket community,” said Gary Shaw, President and CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “This addition means that there will be more appointments available to our patients, reducing wait times, while increasing the quality of care that comes with having a provider on-site that specializes in the high-demand field’s our community needs, like obstetrics and addiction medicine.”