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Kaysey Pollan always thrived under pressure and knew how to react under pressure without causing alarm.
Those lessons were instilled in Kaysey from an early age and continue to guide her today as the director of Environment Safety and Emergency Management at Cook Children's. Kaysey is responsible for implementing our safety and emergency training, which was critical when we faced a crisis like no other with the arrival of a global pandemic.
"I grew up playing competitive softball. My dad was my coach my entire career and the one thing he always said was don't panic because that's when you make mistakes, that's when it all falls apart," Kaysey said. "But I'm sure unknowingly to him that has been a life lesson, especially in this career of when you panic during chaos, that's when mistakes are made. That's when things are overlooked. You have to stay calm, to stay collected. You have to play against anything we face. So don't panic."
After years of acting as a recreational planner, Kaysey's level-headed nature led her to a degree in emergency management. There was a distinct contrast between her practicality that she implements and the disorganization that her day-to-day job entails.
"I thrive off of the chaos in a sense, like the planning and the preparedness efforts are necessary for my job, but I love the response. I love putting all the puzzle pieces in place," Kaysey said. "Like that's kind of my heart. My job is the most fun when things are going the worst."
Kaysey's commitment to Cook Children’s established her as a consistent leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Her job always required an around-the-clock attentiveness, but the last year required even more dedication.
"Long before COVID-19, a lot of times Kaysey scheduled drills. I was always supportive because I know why we need to do have those drills. But it was always like, 'Oh yeah, here goes another drill.' You know, it's let's go through the motions and everything like that," said Stan Davis, Chief Operating Officer at Cook Children's and one of the four incident commanders over the past year. He already recognized the necessity of the drills as preparation for Joint Commission and various other regulatory agencies but now sees how such preparation positioned us so well to act and respond in the face of a pandemic.
"I have so much admiration and respect for Kaysey and folks that are in her position because what they are doing, is preparing our actions, our thinking and our resources to handle COVID-19," Stan continued. "We didn't know how beneficial those drills were. This situation is not an exercise. It's not a drill. It is real. It's become our norm, but I think we can reach back and say a lot of those practice exercises helped us prepare and adapt to this situation. So thank you, Kaysey."
Her persistence not only caught the attention of employees, but also other hospitals in the region.
"We [Cook Children's] are held in such high regard throughout the region," Kaysey said. "That's where I really kind of get that satisfaction. When something comes up or when there's a disaster or some sort of major event, a lot of people ask what is Cook Children's doing and mirror that."
In the midst of the first global pandemic in many employees' lifetimes, Kaysey was navigating issues in supply chain, making quick decisions that could impact patient families, and in February, was leading response to a power outage in a snow storm during the pandemic.
"You know, we've always kind of had stuff happen and everybody's able to give a 100% and come up here when they need to work extra hours," Kaysey said. "And for the first time, they were being challenged just as much at home as they were here at the hospital."
The pandemic doled hardships to most of the country, and Cook Children's staff wasn't immune to the effects of this. Kaysey had yet to encounter a disaster that truly derailed her planning methods because disasters do not typically last a year. The long-term fatigue of COVID-19, civil unrest, and political issues added unnecessary stress to employees who were already feeling these burdens at home.
Despite the stress and taxing hours, Kaysey was always in the Incident Command Center to work with leadership on decisions that impacted patients, families and employees.
"I've seen decisions made real-time in a disaster. I have never been hindered during our disaster response by someone saying, ‘We shouldn't get that.’ ‘We shouldn't do that.’ ‘What if we get that and don't need it?'" Kaysey said. “It's always been, 'What's best for the patients?' 'What's best for the families and what is best and safest for our staff?'"
Kaysey didn’t necessarily anticipate that she would enjoy pediatric health care, but she took a chance and has now been the director of Environmental Services and Emergency Management for eight years. The ability to do more and go beyond what is expected continuously exemplifies the culture of Cook Children’s.
"I think a huge part of it is believing in the organization that you work for. When you work for local governments, you're very hindered by bureaucracy and red tape," Kaysey said. "I was very fortunate to get here and have a lot of freedom, have a lot of buy-in and have a lot of support for what I envisioned for the department and what I envisioned for disaster preparedness for Cook Children's, and so I was very supported in that way. But I think the huge thing for me of why I ended up staying at Cook Children's is just believing in what the organization stands for."
And that overall collaborative and supportive work environment is exactly why together, with employees and leaders like Kaysey, we say truly #WeAreCookChildrens.