It all started with a simple but oh-so-meaningful gesture: a warm hug.
An embrace from the nurses in Florence was just what the team members from Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital needed when they arrived Tuesday at Carolinas Hospital System in Florence, where they would care for their patients evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence.
And it immediately set up the start of new friendships between the two hospital teams – friendships that extend beyond the call of duty and a shared passion for providing high-quality patient care. These nurses from two different communities just clicked. Now, they call themselves family.
“We all bonded the minute we hit the floor,” said Carol Williams, nursing assistant/clinical secretary on 2 East at Tidelands Georgetown, one of 27 staff members from 2 East and 2 Parrish who evacuated to Florence. “They hugged us. They welcomed us. They just really embraced us. We just all bonded and absolutely made lifelong friends.”
For five days, the teams worked side by side, supported each other and shared the same goal of making sure the 19 evacuated patients who were taken to Florence received the same high-quality care there that they would have back home.
“It was the excellence of nursing at its peak,” Carol said. “The patients were definitely the benefactors. At the end of the day, it was 100 percent about taking care of those patients. They were scared, too.”
Everyone pitched in and supported each other. The Carolinas Hospital System department heads stopped by the sixth floor, where the Tidelands Health patients and nurses were set up, to check in and offer a helping hand. The staff on that floor jumped right in to help, treated their new friends to pizza one day and routinely just gave a nice word of encouragement.
“They said they were going to walk this road with us, and that’s exactly what they did,” Carol said.
Tina Williamson, assistant director of ortho-neuro-stroke at Carolinas Hospital System, who was designated as the nurse leader for the evacuated patients and team from Tidelands Health, said the team members in Florence wanted their new friends from the coast to be as comfortable as possible. They felt for what the 27 Tidelands team members had gone through, quickly packing up and scurrying to Florence ahead of the patients, leaving their loved ones and homes behind in the storm’s path.
“We were just trying to keep their spirits up,” Tina said. “It was hard for them being away from their family.”
But these teams came together like family. They worked together, ate meals together, shared stories during those quick dinner breaks.
Each smile, each hug, brought them just a bit closer.
“They were cheerful and had those big ole smiles all the time,” Carol said. “Those folks were so encouraging and so loving.”
Tina said the Carolinas team simply made the evacuated Tidelands Health team part of the Carolinas Hospital System family.
“We are a big family, and your people just fit right into that family,” Tina said.
Posts celebrating their new friendships and thanking each other for support started showing up on Facebook early Sunday, just hours after the Tidelands Health team returned to the coast.