Maryland Army National Guard Steps Up to Fill Staff Shortages

Members of the Maryland Army National Guard prepare to assist with COVID-19 testing at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. | Photo by Gian Bonetti

Published in Dome - Dome January/February 2022 and Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles 2022 and Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles

As Faye Snowden talks about the surge of patients with COVID-19 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH), the assistant supply chain director brings up an unanticipated benefit: the opportunity to work with members of the Maryland Army National Guard.

“This is the closest I’ve ever been to the National Guard,” the Harford County resident says. “You always hear about them being called to come into some tough situations. But to see them in a capacity where they’re pulling supplies and running them to the different units to help out — they’re just so friendly!”

In response to Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent state of emergency decree, roughly 40 members of the guard are helping to meet urgent needs at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The 15 soldiers at Johns Hopkins Bayview are assigned at coronavirus testing sites, while the 25 soldiers at JHH are assisting with both testing and nonclinical operations such as management of linens and other materials.

Since the soldiers arrived at JHH on Jan. 10, Snowden has helped oversee their work gathering — and, in some cases, transporting — hospital supplies and equipment, ranging from face masks to CPR carts, to hospital buildings and units.

Snowden, who has worked at JHH for 12 years, is impressed by the soldiers’ sense of direction. “They are actually finding their way around the hospital on their own, and taking the products up to the units,” she says. “The other day, I asked one of the gentlemen, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m good! I know just where I’m going.’ They work so independently.”

Colleen Cusick, director of materials management and general services at the hospital, agrees. “We have approximately five people — three in linen and two in materials management — who have jumped right in to help,” she says.

The temporary arrangement seems to be working smoothly on both ends. In an email to Nicole Fitzpatrick, interim director of coronavirus testing for the Johns Hopkins Health System, National Guard Capt. Chang Lee praised the Johns Hopkins team as “accommodating and supportive of my soldiers,” while Capt. Michael Barreca told Fitzpatrick that JHH has the “most impressive onboarding and orientation” of any hospital where he has led a deployment.

The soldiers are expected to continue assisting nonclinical JHH operations during the next several weeks, according to Mary Brown, director of the JHH Office of Emergency Management.

Johns Hopkins Medicine is also reassigning nonclinical staff to help support units with critical staffing shortfalls.

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