‘In times like these, we are ready’

An emergency physician juggles work, family – and Interstate traffic – to ride out the storm

For Trisha Anest, M.D., the impending hurricane meant a little more juggling than a typical week in the lives of two working parents with young kids.

With Hurricane Florence’s confirmed East Coast trajectory, Anest’s husband, a U.S. Merchant Marine, was activated earlier this week along with other sailors in the Hampton Roads area to pilot big ships from the Norfolk harbor out to sea, where they won’t be damaged (or cause it).

That left Anest, an emergency physician, on shore to solve the riddle of where to take their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, so that she could work an extended, four-night shift at her hospital over the weekend during the storm. The plan was to take them to Maryland, to stay with her in-laws.

Then on Tuesday, administrative and family responsibilities required Anest to be in Baltimore. Once those were complete, she made her way back down Interstate 95 to pick up the kids, then back to Maryland, and then back to Newport News. Round trip: More than 700 miles.

But, Anest says, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Trisha Anest, M.D. and her family this summer (when the weather was a bit more cooperative). Wednesday was the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. “I told him the sixth one needs to be boring, and maybe we can remain in the same state,” Anest says.

“When you choose to become an emergency physician, you sign up for having a disruptive and sometimes hectic family schedule,” she said yesterday as she drove north on I-95 with her kids, en route to Maryland for the second time in 24 hours. And as many residents in Hampton Roads evacuate and flee the coast, Anest will be driving in the opposite direction to be at the hospital for the storm.

Anest is Chair of the Emergency Department at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News, and therefore responsible for helping coordinate staff schedules.

“For the storm schedule, we tried to make it so that as many staff as possible can remain home and safe with family,” she said. The team has scheduled enough physicians, physician assistants, and other providers to operate the ED through the storm (she’ll work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights).

Emergency departments are a safety net for individuals in a time when family practices, urgent care clinics, and facilities for routine chronic care like dialysis must close their doors – whether for a damaging storm or normal business hours. But emergency departments are open 24/7/365, ready at any time to treat any person for any condition.

“There are no normal business hours for an emergency physician. The emergency department is the one place people can go to access care at any time, regardless of weather, time of day, or holiday,” Anest says. “For me, it is a privilege to take care of people when they need it most. I like working in a field where the door is always open to anybody, anytime, for anything they need. In times like these, we’re ready.”