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The Wonderful History of Bev Crum

by | Apr 12, 2019 | Healthcare, Magazine

Forty years of compassion at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

My interview with Bev Crum, ER nurse manager for the Emergency Department at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, was absolutely delightful. It is clear, from even the short conversation that we had, that she is an intelligent, highly qualified, and deeply compassionate woman who has dedicated her career to caring for patients, peers, and her community.

PeaceHealth’s history stretches back in Ketchikan to 1923, when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace opened the Little Flower Hospital. Today PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center employs 500 people, 80 percent of whom are women. The center’s number of employees qualified the organization for our 2019 Corporate 100 list, and because of the hospital’s rich history, we thought it was the perfect candidate to connect Alaska Business with an employee with an equally rich history. Enter Crum, who has worked at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center for more than forty years.

She is originally from Ohio and moved to Ketchikan in 1976, so she’s now lived more of her life in Alaska than elsewhere. While in Ohio, “I had a friend that was in Ketchikan doing some seasonal work. And when I heard that person talking about Ketchikan—the mountains, the water, it’s laid-back, how nice the community was—I was intrigued.” She arrived in Ketchikan via the Alaska Marine Highway on Seward’s Day.

Bev Crum, ER nurse manager for the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

“It was kind of interesting coming in on Seward’s Day because you couldn’t do anything. I had broken my glasses on the ferry and needed a screw put on them, but nothing was open. At the time it just didn’t make sense to me, but now that I’ve lived here all these years, I do understand how important those days are.”

Crum can’t point to anything specific that led her to a career in healthcare; rather, she’s always just kind of known she was heading that direction. “Back when I was growing up, you either wanted to be a nurse or a teacher—there really weren’t that many opportunities for women back then.” Before heading to Ketchikan, she had worked for three years in pediatrics at an Ohio hospital after earning her nursing degree.

The themes of her career are mentoring and growth. She has been licensed as an EMT and taught skills and proctored exams in that field; she was on the Ketchikan Emergency Medical Services Board, which led her to join the Southeast Region EMS board; in the 1980s she became a CEN, or certified emergency nurse; she’s been an instructor for ACLS, PALS, TNCC, ENPC; and she’s participated in sexual assault response training several times.

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And all of that education and career development has been matched by official accolades. Crum was the 1996 Manager of the Year in Ketchikan. She was named by the Emergency Nurses Association as the Manager of the Year as well, “which was an international award and was quite fabulous; I received that in Baltimore, and my staff had written very nice things about me. It was quite an honor and a real highlight for me in my career,” she says. She’s also been nominated and named as Manager of the Year specifically at the hospital, and she received the Mission and Values Award for Collaboration in 2017.

Over the course of her forty years, she’s worked primarily in emergency response, though she also worked in the long-term care unit and in pediatrics. She became a manager in the late seventies, and today as the ER nurse manager her day-to-day activities cover the emergency department, including trauma and sexual assault, and her team also covers disaster and emergency preparedness.

“Even though I’m a manager, what I enjoy most is that I still do hands-on patient care,” she explains. “I’ll help over lunches or breaks or if they’re busy. What I really enjoy is just being there for the patient… If your family goes to the emergency room, you want someone there to be their advocate and to look out for them—to put an arm around them or get them a glass of water. Those seem like simple things, but for all my years, those are important things for people.”

Bev Crum participates in a disaster drill at the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

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While her passion for helping others has been constant, very few other aspects of the healthcare industry have remained the same for forty years.

“When I first started, we did very little charting, and anymore if you don’t chart it, you didn’t do it.” She absolutely sees the value in detailed documentation to improve standards of care but says it’s a lot of work. “You almost feel like you need glasses with a video camera that can record everything for you, because it’s very cumbersome to do and try to take care of patients.”

And while her charting glasses haven’t entered production quite yet, many other technological advances have taken place. “We got our first electronic medical record in 1998,” Crum says.

With the initiation of electronic health records, it became necessary for employees to have a user number for access. “For some unknown reason, I got the number 911, and it’s like somebody must have known I was going to outlast my colleagues,” she laughs. “It’s kind of a cute thing for me.”

One of the biggest changes specifically in the emergency department is staffing. In the 1970s, there were no emergency room physicians. Instead, nurses would assess the patient, call a local community doctor, and then develop a plan for treatment.

Bev Crum (right) participates in an emergency drill with Sherity Kelly, RN, and Becky harris, RN (left).

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

This system ended in the early 1980s, when the doctors found the system to be too much of a burden on their private practices. The hospital tried a few different systems, including having doctors in the ER on the weekends or on nights, until deciding to have full time emergency physicians in the department in 1989.

Early in her career, “we didn’t have Medevac services, so if we had a critical patient that we needed to transport out, they had to buy an Alaska Airlines ticket, and that took twelve seats to go on the stretcher,” Crum says. She’s seen CT and MRI technology change the quality of diagnostics and the hospital staff’s ability to better determine whether a patient could be treated on site, and she remembers a time when the hospital still had sisters in the building, though their numbers have dwindled and none are there today.

She’s been able to ground herself amongst all these changes, but looking forward she hopes that Ketchikan, which is a small community, isn’t lost in the big system that is healthcare. “It’s important to me that, with all of the system-ness that goes on, that we do remember our own local community and try to fit what the system wants to our community.”

She says the culture at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center is one of team spirit and is driven by the PeaceHealth mission to take care of anyone who passes through the center’s doors. “It makes no difference who they are. We don’t ask for insurance up front, and that’s been one important thing for us, is that we take care of people first and worry about the rest later.”

She’s found value in her long career at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center in large part because of that culture, which supports her and her staff as they demonstrate care and compassion to their patients. “I am so grateful for all of the wonderful caregivers/persons, not only from PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center but from across the state that have crossed my path during my tenure, and I’d like to give special acknowledgement to all of the emergency department caregivers that have helped to make my role so much easier throughout the years.”

It would seem they return the sentiment. According to a PeaceHealth article from January 2017 titled “A best friend in the worst times,” if there’s something going wrong, one can always see Crum in the midst of it, trying to make things better.

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