A leader in the face of a pandemic: Liz Highland’s personal call to action
Urgent care nurse practitioner Liz Highland, ARNP, has had a lot of practice managing patient flow. She’s so good at it, in fact, that it was no surprise to anyone that after a week in our respiratory clinic, she was asked to serve as lead APP (advanced practice provider).
Although she was honored to be asked to take on this leadership role, Highland said she had to think hard about accepting the position. With her husband working and new baby daughter at home, Highland at first wasn’t sure how she’d manage the challenges that many working parents face during this pandemic. Ultimately, Highland felt a calling to help care for those in need.
“I’m a spiritual person, and I feel strongly that the respiratory clinic is where I need to be,” Highland says. “My husband has been incredibly supportive of that need.”
While the lives of many outside the hospital have slowed down over the past few months, Highland and her family are busier than ever. They’re taking each day in stride, continuing to adjust to schedules, a new role, and the added balancing act of getting their young daughter to daycare.
Daily flow of patients
After the respiratory clinic was created in March, Highland was one of the first to volunteer to work there. Her past experience working in urgent care—where she managed the daily flow of patients of all ages, with all sorts of medical histories—has been incredibly helpful in keeping the clinic and running smoothly.
“In the respiratory clinic, we see fairly sick patients, patients who need IV fluids, lab work, imaging, and oxygen,” says Highland, who joined UI Health Care as a full-time employee in September. “The workload for the team can be unpredictable.”
The respiratory clinic team sees roughly 200 patients a day—about one-third of them typically need to see a medical provider to evaluate their symptoms. Tests for COVID-19 are also administered at the clinic. Since it opened, the clinic has served more than 8,500 people. Patients range in age, from children to seniors. Highland says she has been grateful for the strong communication the respiratory clinic has with other teams within UI Health Care to ensure patients get the care they need while staying safe.
“We have children, pregnant women, and post-partum women coming into the clinic and so it’s been critical to have that support,” says Highland. “The learning curve of all of this has been intense, not just for me, but for the entire team.”
An empathetic leader
Those who work with Highland praise her for her organizational skills, but also for her empathy and ability to calm the nerves of visitors, many of whom have no idea what to expect when they arrive. Those who work in the respiratory clinic say that there is a palpable tension in the clinic due to the worry that comes with a possible COVID-19 diagnosis. Highland brings comfort to not only patients, but to the team she leads.
Work at this clinic is much like working in any urgent care clinic, but there are also added precautions and steps to adjust to. Highland says that members of the clinic team handle these changes with grace and patience.
“Everyone rolls with the punches,” she says. “We’re lucky to have people who are flexible and fluid and who understand that the situation is going to change every day, if not every hour. Every patient will be taken care of, and that’s the most important thing.”