Lutheran's Latest Unsung Heroes – Supply Chain
Well-deserved recognition and praise are given to our clinical caregivers who provide direct care for our patients. However, there are countless behind-the-scenes caregivers who play a vital role in making sure those caregivers have everything they need to provide the world-class care for which we are known at Lutheran Medical Center. The Supply Chain team is our latest group of “unsung heroes,” and we are proud to recognize their incredible work.
The Supply Chain team is comprised of 20 caregivers and three robots. They manage supplies in 64 rooms, including 41 nursing supply rooms, 15 Surgery rooms, six Cath Lab rooms and two Sterile Processing rooms. Last year, they added two new caregivers to their team, an equipment tech, and a GI lab supply coordinator.
In 2022, the team received more than 330,000 packages for the hospital, which included everything from cookie dough to medical supplies to pharmaceuticals. The supply handling team of eight people picked almost six million items out of the warehouse and put more than five million of those items away in storerooms.
There are many caregivers in Supply Chain who have had long careers at Lutheran, including two who reached their 30-year benchmark in 2022 – George (Toby) Martinez and Donna Baker. Multiple members on the team have worked in several departments and in various roles throughout the hospital. There are even two mother/daughter teams working in Supply Chain at Lutheran.
Rachel Walker joined Lutheran three years ago, and currently serves as the interim director of Supply Chain, but her history with the hospital began when she was in middle school. Rachel’s mom worked in Supply Chain at the time, and Rachel would go to work with her to help organize and alphabetize items. Prior to becoming interim director, Rachel served as an analyst and a manager. She also volunteered at Lutheran’s Breast Care Center when she was in high school.
“I absolutely love the staff here,” said Rachel. “We have so much fun and even prank each other sometimes. We know each other very well and know what is going on in each other’s lives. Another thing I love about this job is that even though we are not doing clinical work, the work we do has a huge impact in the hospital.”
Lutheran’s robots play a unique role by carrying supplies and helping with push/pull injuries. The robots can independently use elevators and open doors. Since they were originally identified by numbers that were difficult to read, the Supply Chain team decided to dress them in superhero costumes – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Not only is Lutheran the only Intermountain Health hospital in Colorado to use robots for supply delivery, but they were also the first hospital in the state of Colorado to use robots for supply delivery.
“Patients’ eyes light up when they see the robots, and they love taking photos with them,” said Rachel. “They have cameras and sensors so they can get out of the way of people walking by and avoid other obstacles along the way. They have the capability to help with so many things.”
The team receives and arranges almost everything that comes into the hospital. They are tasked with figuring out if deliveries are missing anything, whom to contact when they arrive, and where the packages go. They manage approximately 1,300 supplies within the warehouse, small equipment, and more. They receive every order that comes in on USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon trucks.
The coordinators ensure the hospital has the supplies it needs, and they manage substitutes, backorders, recalls and any other potential issues with supplies coming into the hospital. The warehouse typically has $550,000 worth of products on hand, managed by the coordinators. The technicians get orders from the rooms in all 64 locations daily and will pick them and deliver them. On any given day, one shift will get roughly 700 different supplies picked and delivered.
"We view the nursing staff as our main customers in the hospital,” said Rachel. “When they call us for an item, we figure out what they need. We always keep in mind that caring for the patient is the end goal, so we must make sure we get them the right product and we do it efficiently. We have gotten really good at understanding that our nurses are under an enormous amount of pressure, especially in the last couple of years, and we want to be here for them and be able to get them exactly what they need.”
During the pandemic, the team received donations from the community to help with the supply chain issues hospitals experienced nationwide. They had to look at how many products were being used each month to determine the best way to use the allocated supplies. A Supply Chain caregiver would round each morning and hand out masks to the staff depending on what staffing levels were in each department. When non-emergency surgeries were temporarily halted, the team helped the OR staff make masks with sewing machines.
“We had to work with a lot of other departments during that time,” Rachel said. “It was tough on everyone, and we had to help everyone make it work with what we had.”
The Supply Chain team maintains a cache of extra supplies for the Front Range Intermountain Health hospitals that includes gloves, masks, gowns, and pallets of extra supplies in case anything like a pandemic happens again.
When asked what Rachel would want people to know about her team, she said, “The work we do is expanding. Our analyst works with a system that weighs supplies and reorders them based on that weight. It allows us to expand to better help people and make sure things are stocked better. This system is quicker, fewer people are involved, and it will allow nurses to focus on nursing instead of having to worry about the supplies they need.”
We sometimes forget that the amazing work that our clinical teams do would not be possible without all the hardworking and dedicated behind-the-scenes team members here at Lutheran. Thank you to these extraordinary people working in extraordinary times. We are grateful for all that you do!