17 Fall/Winter 2021-22 of a first in the long history of the Guard—and, at the very least, adds a new layer of meaning to “Always Ready, Always There.” “The National Guard here, they typically will be delivering supplies, restocking things for the nurses to have them on hand, and just basically be on stand-by for nurses if they need a little assistance here or there,” said Pfc. Emilia Gomez, 19, standing in the ICU at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in September, when up to 45 Guard members were working at the 233-bed hospital in Clackamas. Gomez, of Hillsboro, and others in her support battalion, a subunit of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, were able to “help take out soiled linens, trash, and they also help with running down to get blood, and running down for a lab, just the many little things that actually make a difference in medical.” That difference was measurable, said Josh Franke, chief project officer at Salem Hospital, where up to about 160 Guard members— about half from the Army National Guard and half from the Air National Guard—were integrated into the Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics systemwide staff of more than 5,000, of which 1,806 are registered nurses, 304 certified nursing assistants, and 64 nurse practitioners, most of them working at the main Salem Hospital. “They came right at the height of our COVID surge, and they were with us through the peak,” Franke said. “So, we had really good baseline data prior that we were able to compare the benefit of their being here with.” A few examples: • With more manpower to clean vacated rooms, a common Guard task at many hospitals, Salem was able to make rooms available more quickly for new patients as daily discharges from the hospital averaged between 50 and 70 per day in recent months. This also freed up nursing staff who may have had to help with cleaning prior to the Guard’s arrival. • In Nutrition Services, the time it took to deliver meals to patients throughout the hospital was cut by an average of 22 minutes per order. “You’ve got 400 people in the hospital, so 22 minutes per order is pretty significant,” Franke said. • Helping to move patients around the hospital, especially on the busy route from the Emergency Department to Imaging, the Guard made possible a 19% improvement in the time it was taking to get from placing an imaging order in the ED to transporting a patient to the imaging location. During the baseline period in August, that process had taken an average of 10.8 minutes; by mid-September, after Guard members had arrived and been trained, the average time had been cut to 8.7 minutes. Those saved minutes add up in the busiest Emergency Department on the West Coast from San Francisco to the Canadian border, which had more than 91,000 visits in 2020 and by early December 2021 had already logged 88,000, while averaging nearly 300 visits per day. • At Salem’s drive-through COVID testing site, where about 300 cars per day were lining up in September, the aggregate patient wait time was reduced by about six hours once Guard members were on the scene to assist—with such tasks as queuing cars, moving supplies from the tent to the building, and getting paperwork started. “Beyond the boost that they’ve provided to the morale of the staff,” Franke said, “they’ve had some very tangible impacts on our operations.” But the impact of the Guard’s morale boost was itself tangible, continues In Nutrition Services, the time it took to deliver meals to patients throughout the hospital was cut by an average of 22 minutes per order.