URMC emergency medical team returns from NYC with lessons for Rochester health care

Apr 14, 2020

An emergency medicine team from the University of Rochester Medical Center has returned from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. 

The team of 14 doctors, nurses, and physician assistants was dispatched to two hospitals for nearly a week. 

Medical staff wearing personal protective equipment.
Credit Leslie White

Dr. Aekta Andrea Miglani, medical director of emergency medicine at URMC, said that one of the major differences she saw between Rochester and New York City hospitals was the level of anxiety.

She said that within 24 hours of reaching a peak in coronavirus cases, anxiety declined among staff at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital.

“That anxiety level almost dropped because you know what you’re working with at that point," she said. "I do think there’s probably a layer of anxiety here that is a little bit higher than Northwell just because it’s unknown what we may be in for.”

Miglani said Rochester hospitals have had the advantage of time when it comes to preparing for a possible surge, such as putting up tents at emergency rooms, whereas New York City hospitals have had to respond to the heat of a surge as it happens. 

Dr. Wendy Allen-Thompson, director of nursing, said they learned that establishing a strong network of support is important for medical staff, patients, and families.

"Making sure families are connected with their loved ones, and just the impact that that has on their care," she said. "And so some of the things that I’m already working on are just making sure we have great support for our patients and families and our staff.” 


A University of Rochester Medical Center team aided Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital in New York City for nearly a week. A second team is currently working in hospitals in New York City.
Credit Leslie White

Allen-Thompson said that URMC hospitals are supplying iPads so that patients can communicate with loved ones and care teams.

Miglani encouraged people to continue practicing social distancing and abiding by medical advice to help flatten the curve and prevent overwhelming local medical centers.

“COVID-19 (in New York City) is endemic on a level that isn’t the case here, and we don’t know that it’ll get to that point here," she said. "I think a lot of our distancing measures are part of the reason why we might be able to stave that off.”

A second team of 14 medical personnel is currently working in New York City.