Thrive by IU Health

December 16, 2021

Holidays in the hospital: Finding light in the darkness

Holidays in the hospital: Finding light in the darkness

Each day brings new challenges. Those who care for the sickest of patients during the long-lasting pandemic are giving their all. And as they give, they look for light in the darkness.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

On the same unit that has treated some of the sickest patients diagnosed with COVID-19, there’s a holiday tree. Nurses and other team members decorated the tree with recycled resources including pressure cuffs and rubber blood draw tourniquets.

The crowning jewel on the tree located in IU Health’s Methodist Hospital 8E is a star with the face of Dr. Rajat Kapoor. Those who work with him, refer to Dr. Kapoor as their “favorite intensivist,” and “a shining star.” An intensivist is a board-certified physician who provides special care for those who are critically ill. Team members say Dr. Kapoor has been a consummate encourager in the fight against a pandemic that has changed the world of healthcare.

“Some of the things I like about Dr. Kapoor are his knowledge, his compassion, gentleness, and his collaborative approach. He listens to the nursing staff and really takes into consideration our concerns. He also listens to his patients - that’s a big one,” said nurse Monica Hammerly.

Another nurse said, “I’ve thought about how hard Dr. Kapoor has worked for so long and yet he remains so optimistic – almost annoyingly optimistic at times – but it rubs off on those he works with.”

Medical journals, professional publications, and media outlets have reported Dr. Kapoor’s countless efforts since the start of the pandemic. As a critical care pulmonologist and Medical Director for Respiratory Care Services at IU Health, Dr. Kapoor has been recognized for his efficiency and responsiveness in the face of dire need.

Consider that Dr. Kapoor was instrumental in:

  • Implementing systems to track and distribute necessary equipment and supplies including ventilators and the use of those supplies by all IU Health facilities.
  • Balancing hospital staffing that included reducing elective procedures and reassigning team members to the greatest areas of need.
  • Educating hospital staff to ensure that the quality and safety of patients is maintained in all circumstances.

What many people did not see was the depth and breadth of Dr. Kapoor’s leadership efforts. He earned his medical degree from Maulana Azad Medical College, India; completed his residency at the University of Illinois; and a fellowship at Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University. In 2018, he earned his Physician MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Two years later, Dr. Kapoor began working at IU Health and combined experience in the ICU with his business background to face the challenges of COVID-19.

As the number of cases grew and the beds began to fill, Dr. Kapoor gathered team members for daily huddles updating them on key changes and initiatives. Staff training increased to meet the demands. Team members say they are encouraged to offer ideas on ways to improve operations, work more efficiently, and manage patient needs.

“As I cared for sick COVID patients three days in a row, I allowed myself to be optimistic because that’s what Dr. Kapoor would do,” said one nurse. “In the middle of this war, he was always optimistic.”

For Dr. Kapoor, “the war” is not over and he plans to keep putting his best foot forward.

Recent data suggests a forecast of 550-575 infected patients in hospitals around the state by New Year’s Day. At IU Health Hospitals, there are more than 400 COVID-19 patients. Total hospitalizations throughout the state have doubled in the past month making Indiana among the top states in the country for COVID-19 hospitalizations. Add to that an increase in volume of other patient illness, and IU Health now has a record 70 percent of all staffed inpatient beds throughout the state.

To help provide some relief, Indiana National Guard troops have partnered with the Indiana Department of Health, bringing trained medics to work alongside IU Health team members.

Those caring for the increase patient load are tired. They are frustrated. And they are searching for light in the darkness.

“How has COVID changed me? As a person there’s an understanding that things can change and they can change quickly. The disease itself has made all of us more humble and forced us to look at things differently. Professionally, we’ve done a lot of research and collaborations, not just nationally, but also internationally that have resulted in some fairly fruitful studies,” said Dr. Kapoor.

“As for being a shining star, I think recognition is helpful to everyone,” he said. “These days there’s so much negativity and we’re here for the long haul so that means celebrating every little thing – from sending a patient home after a long hospitalization to providing meals for team members. It’s not easy but we do what we can to stay optimistic day in and day out.”