Suzanne visits London

Nursing | one year ago

Keep Calm and Play Ball!

In 2020, as the world began trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals postponed their planned Major League Baseball series in London. Three years later, they finally made it up and brought along some extra special guests: three exceptional nurses from Advocate Health, of which Atrium Health is a part.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Suzanne Taylor, a registered nurse and clinical supervisor, exclaims with delight.

From boarding the Chicago Cubs charter plane to floating down the River Thames and witnessing the changing of the guard with her husband, Jim, to walking into London Stadium, Suzanne’s recent trip to London was a bit surreal.Suzanne in London on a boat 

“Walking into the stadium, it was just amazing – and to think this is where the Olympics were in 2012,” Suzanne recalls. “They let us go down on the field and we took pictures, of course. It’s just amazing how many things we got to see and do being with the team.”

Suzanne’s adventure came as Advocate Health and the Chicago Cubs recognized health care workers worldwide during the MLB World Tour: London Series 2023 presented by Capital One. She was one of three nurses from the Advocate Health system to attend the two games between the Cubs and the Cardinals in the U.K. Atrium Health is part of Charlotte-based Advocate Health, as is Chicago-based Advocate Health Care, which is a legacy partner with the Cubs.

“I got the call from my supervisor and he asked if I had a passport,” she says. “I said ‘yes’ and he said, ‘Okay, do you want to go to London … next week?’”

Suzanne traveled with the team and represented Atrium Health at the game, even meeting Cubs superfan Bill Murray! 

Nurses with Bill Murray“He said they needed to take me to see the ‘real’ city,” she says, laughing at his reference to Chicago, where the other two nurses who were honored are based at Advocate Health Care hospitals. Together, they proudly represented the 40,000 nurses from across Advocate Health.

Suzanne has spent the past 27 years caring for Atrium Health patients and is now the clinical supervisor for the free-standing emergency department at SouthPark.

She thought she’d pretty much seen it all. Until 2020.

“We didn’t know a lot back then and people were scared,” she recalls.

For Suzanne and her teammates at the emergency department, the risk of exposure was high. Home testing kits weren’t yet available and even someone coming in with a broken leg could potentially have COVID-19. Suzanne organized and became the point person for a drive-through testing site for Atrium Health teammates, to better help them determine their own risk before potentially exposing others to COVID-19.

“I was worn out by the sheer volume of patients,” she recalls. “If one person in the family was sick, people would often bring the whole family in to the ER for testing.”

For months, Suzanne cared for COVID patients who were often isolated from their families. Sometimes they couldn’t have visitors at all. Nurses were integral in connecting patients with their families for virtual visits as well as monitoring patients virtually.

“It was overwhelming some days,” she says.

Suzanne brought her husband, Jim, along for the trip to London. He had never visited Europe and Suzanne had only been once – on a trip to Paris in high school. It was important for him to show his support not just for Suzanne, but for all health care workers. 

Suzanne says, in August 2021, Jim contracted COVID and spent a total of 25 days in the hospital. She had no in-person contact with him for the duration of his stay.

“Fortunately, he wasn’t on a ventilator, so we were able to keep in touch using video calling,” she says.

The experience opened her eyes and helped her view the pandemic from another perspective and made her more compassionate toward others in understanding how it feels to be separated from loved ones, especially those who are critically ill.

“I think that’s one thing that changed me the most,” she says. “When people would come in and then have to be admitted, I would talk to them and explain, ‘This is going to be okay. It’s going to be scary. Keep your charger with you and use your phone to make sure you stay in touch with your family,’ because that was so important to me.”

As virtual care options continue to grow, Atrium Health is innovating unique ways to incorporate the technology. Suzanne is currently leading a pilot program where a virtual nurse assists emergency room nurses to improve the care of patients who are waiting to be transferred to an inpatient bed. She has also been instrumental in improving stroke care processes in the emergency department.

“It was just an honor to be able to go on this trip,” Suzanne says. There are so many well deserving nurses and staff throughout Atrium Health and the entire Advocate Health system – I’m so grateful, and to the Cubs for such a warm welcome and tremendous opportunity.”

It was all a full-circle moment for Suzanne, whose grandmother and great grandmother were lifelong Cubs fan. In fact, her great grandmother was buried with her prized possession – a signed photo of “Mr. Cub” himself, Ernie Banks.

“And here I am on the plane and bus with the team and meeting the owner … she would have loved this,” Suzanne says.