We care like family at HCA Healthcare. So when our caregivers and communities are in need, HCA’s scale – 179 hospitals in 20 states and 1,800 other sites of care – allow us to be there for one another.

That’s exactly what happened after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Alaska on November 30, 2018, causing major infrastructure damage across Anchorage and wrecking many homes, schools, roads, and bridges.

Alaska Regional Hospital lobby after the earthquake.

Affiliate Alaska Regional Hospital sustained minor damage and children and families in the community were shaken emotionally. Alaska Regional learned of the significant damage sustained at area schools and offered resources to help the students cope with the traumatic event.

Because of HCA Healthcare’s national network of caregivers, two behavioral health experts from affiliate Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, a sister facility to Alaska Regional, traveled to the Last Frontier to provide counseling services to students and staff of the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) school district, an area not far from the epicenter of the November earthquake.

Eastern Idaho Regional’s Erica Liebe, a licensed social worker, and Richard Palmer, a licensed professional counselor, arrived as students were returning to classes after school had been canceled for more than a week. During their four-day stay, Liebe and Palmer visited with close to 70 students, many staff members and conducted presentations to various high school grade levels.

Although some apprehension was present, the Eastern Idaho Regional counselors found everyone to be resilient and well prepared for an event like this one. They talked about:

  • accepting a “new normal” of a different school or routine, and embracing the fact that “different” does not mean bad or scary;
  • cognitive tricks for moving forward from adverse events; and,
  • instead of dwelling on fearful memories, reminding students that they are safe and to focus on positive thoughts if uneasiness returns.

Alaska Regional Hospital and the community were grateful for the “lightning-fast” offers of support and resources provided by HCA Healthcare in the minutes after the quake – as well as the days and weeks that followed.

Erica and Richard with Finger Lake Elementary School Principal Susan Steele.

In addition to the behavioral health experts who traveled to help, other HCA colleagues offered to go to Alaska to help clean, organize, restock and get their fellow caregivers at Alaska Regional Hospital back to the business of caring for their community.

Alaska Regional Hospital and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center are members of the HCA Healthcare Mountain Division.