Can you imagine a dozen emergency room health-care providers leaping into the frigid North Atlantic Ocean on the coldest winter February day by choice? No? Well, it happened in Carbonear, NL and from the spectacular positive community and workplace response; it is likely to happen again.
I am a physician at the Carbonear General Hospital (CGH) emergency department, and this unusual polar dip occurred as a way to build on one of the most essential components in health care – teamwork.
I know from experience that there is no place more crucial for teamwork than in an emergency department. Teamwork is paramount for health providers – nurses, physicians and paramedics alike – who work together in stressful, high-intensity and life-and-death situations.
Our team displays pride in the work of the department and is highly focused on improving care. We maintain the national emergency standards of care. By meeting and exceeding these standards, we prioritize the patient and treat all individuals like family, while providing the best possible care to people in the community. And we’ve learned that a collaborative, highly functioning team helps us to create a more productive, enjoyable and satisfying work environment that results in that high quality patient care.
On the heels of the Holiday season, during the coldest winter months, we see some of the most vulnerable people in society.
And that was the second reason we decided to take the plunge. Our desire to help support our local community was as strong as our enthusiasm to strengthen our team – so the Polar Dip was born to raise funds for local food banks.
Our location was set at beautiful Salmon Cove Beach. Warmed by our fond summer memories of its black sand free of rocks, gradual safe water line and warm fresh water, it was the perfect site for our first ever polar dip.
Memories that held us in good stead – because on the day of our event, February 4, 2017, it was a chilly -10 degrees Celsius with a frigid wind chill of minus 16, not to mention that the water temperature was a shocking 0.6 degrees below zero!!!
Those who were ready to brave the icy water huddled around a raging fire and heated ice fishing tents in their swimwear. Thankfully, coffee and hot chocolate were flowing freely.
With the interest generated around the community, we attracted a crowd of over 100 supporters.
‘What were we thinking!’
The preparation and execution of an event like this quickly creates a special bond among colleagues. For me, time began to blur and 30 minutes felt more like five. Many of us felt all sorts of emotions leading up to the dip, as we asked ourselves “what were we thinking!”
As the time to enter the ocean approached, you could feel the excitement in the air. As I removed my winter clothes, the impressive momentum around me meant I had no option to turn back. ‘Are we really doing this?’ I thought as I quickly ran from the frozen sand into the icy water.
At the moment I submerged, I completely lost my memory until I was back on the beach trying to find my boots! It was a true flight response! There were ‘high fives’ all around, as well as people and families who came to support our cause and warm their relatives.
In three short weeks, from the moment this event began to take shape – to the icy plunge – we were able accomplished our goals with a dozen polar dippers, a crowd of spectators and $5,000 raised for two local community food banks.
The Polar Dip continues to be a fond topic of conversation at the Carbonear General Hospital emergency department. We are all thrilled that our crazy idea ended up helping our community. And, as we continue to strengthen our team, we are truly eager to plan and plunge into the icy waters again next year! ■
This story was written by Dr. Christopher Patey, MD, in collaboration with Brad Hunt, RN, members of the Carbonear General Hospital’s Emergency Department at Eastern Health.