One of the biggest challenges our nation has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic is childcare access for working families.
In March of 2020, like so many others in the workforce, many frontline NHC staff members could not leave their children at home to come to work nor could they afford to be furloughed. That’s when our leadership team combined their creativity, innovation, and compassion to start an emergency daycare, specifically for the most vulnerable frontline staff members with young children.
Shelly Santa Cruz, NHC’s Quality Improvement Manager, was given the role of managing and running the daycare in the early months of the pandemic. Shelly recently shared her experience at the daycare and how she feels it impacted NHC’s workplace culture.
Q: COVID and the NHC daycare – how was that decision made?
When the initial pandemic shutdown happened, our CEO Jeri Weeks sent out an inspiring email to let us know that NHC would do everything possible to get us through this unprecedented event. I reached out to offer my support wherever they needed me and mentioned that I have had some previous experience with children. One week later, we were opening a day camp.
Our directors and dental clinic managers worked diligently to knock down barriers and make it happen – it was a real collaborative effort from every angle.
Q: How did that help staff deal with stress and challenges at the beginning of the pandemic?
The daycare, or DayCamp as we called it, provided peace of mind for our essential frontline staff. Not only were they able to keep working and provide critical patient care, but they also knew their children were taken care of in a safe environment. NHC was able to provide meals for kids who normally relied on meal assistance at school, as well, taking one more worry off their parents’ plates.
Q: How were you able to care for the kids?
Community Dental Assistant Alexsia Lozano and Quality Improvement Manager Shelly Santa Cruz care for kids at NHC's daycare.
We were lucky enough to have a former teacher on staff, Community Dental Assistant Alexsia Lozano. Alexsia elevated our camp from a daycare to a remote school learning center, which was a huge relief for our employees – when they got off work and picked up their kids, they didn’t have to spend their evening stressing about completing homework. The feedback we received from Alexsia helping with the education was beautiful and heartwarming.
Q: Was this project a difficult transition in the healthcare environment?
We were very creative. We were able to turn our training room into a daycare center and utilized the kitchen for meals and activities. We also had a quiet room for the infants and toddlers to take naps. The most difficult part was that the administrative building was still functioning as a work location, meaning phone calls and virtual meetings would occur nearby the day camp location. We did our best to keep the noise down, but kids will be kids!
Q: Do you think this experience has impacted the culture at NHC? If yes, how so?
It was a bright spot during a difficult time. We often think of it when referring to the “can-do” and collaborative NHC culture.
At a time when nothing was certain, NHC delivered an innovative solution.
It solidified why I love working at NHC. This company truly cares for their employees – they have done everything possible to ensure no one lost their job and everyone felt secure.
Q: How did this affect your NHC experience?
It was hard work running a daycare, but in the end, it has been my most fulfilling experience yet at NHC. Waking up every day, getting to take care of kids, and working as a team was fun, challenging, and rewarding.
If you want to learn more about NHC’s pandemic daycare, read about Alexsia’s experience working at DayCamp on our blog.