If you’re one of the 25,000 patients who’ll end up in the emergency room at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital this year, you might owe a thank-you to Linda and Stephen Gill for looking out for you.
The La Cañada Flintridge residents wanted their neighborhood ER to function as effectively as possible, so late last year, the couple delivered a donation for further education and training for emergency nurses. Linda Gill preferred not to focus on the amount, but USC-VHH representatives revealed that it was substantial: $250,000.
“That’s a lot of money!” said Dr. David Tashman, chair of the USC-VHH emergency department. “Amazing. Really beyond our dreams. We’re really, really grateful to them.”
Tashman said the USC-VHH Foundation approached him and leaders in his department to inquire about what they might need. A remodel was already taking place and the space was fairly well equipped for the type of services provided, so he and his staff decided what they needed most was something intangible: A fund to help the department’s nurses continue their education.
The plan is to have all of the department’s nurses complete a two-year, all-encompassing certification course that serves to bring the staff up to speed on recent updates to emergency treatments, including the stroke care that USC-VHH recently has introduced.
“Not that it’s not already good, but emergency medicine is changing so quickly, we’re hoping to really up our game,” Tashman said.
The opportunity to invest this donation just before the nurses signed a new-and-improved contract has been great for morale, he said.
“A hospital is a box of nurses,” Tashman said. “They make the place run. We [doctors] get the credit, but we do 10% of the work. So if nurses are good and happy, everyone’s happy.”
As a former teacher, Linda Gill said she loves the idea of contributing to education within the department, which serves as the entry point for more than half of the hospital’s patients, dealing with everything from heart attacks to bee stings.
“It’s not that any medical practice is less important than any other, but most doctors who practice at the hospital kind of have a plan, they’ve had their patients scheduled. [But for] emergency doctors and nurses, there’s no plan, people just come in,” Gill said. “They have no idea who they’re going to be seeing and under what circumstances, so to me that is the most important part of our community hospital. And the better trained they are, the more education they have, the better we all are.”
The Gills donated to the hospital before, helping to fund a portable electrocardiogram machine, a valuable tool in a department that Tashman said is treating 5,000 more patients than it was five years ago, partly on account of an aging population and perhaps as a result of the hospital’s improving reputation.
“It’s the closest emergency room to where we live,” Linda Gill said. “Over the years, it’s been called awful things and gotten a lot of criticism, so I thought, well, if it’s not as good as you want it to be, do something to make it better.”
The Gills know their efforts make a difference. When Stephen Gill fell and suffered a dislocated shoulder a year and a half ago, they visited their local emergency department, where nurses hooked him up to an EKG — his EKG.
“Lo and behold,” Linda Gill said, “it was the one we purchased. I thought, ‘Well, this came home.’”