Hundreds of SwedishAmerican Workers Brave Frigid Temps to "Hug" Their Hospital

ROCKFORD, Illinois – Hundreds of SwedishAmerican healthcare workers formed a hospital “hug” this week in recognition of the past year battling COVID-19.

Employees from SwedishAmerican, a division of UW Health, formed a quarter-mile human chain around the outside of its hospital on Friday. Associates stood at a safe social distance and held up hearts while sharing a moment of silence lasting 3 minutes and 26 seconds, signifying the amount of days (326) the hospital has cared for COVID-19 inpatients. The hospital has had more than 1,300 COVID-19 inpatients since March 2020.

The “hug” was organized by frontline nurses and led by SwedishAmerican Chief of Surgery Dr. James P. Cole, who, as a highly-decorated veteran with three combat tours as a surgeon in Iraq and Afghanistan, says it’s important for employees to reflect on the trauma they’ve endured in order to keep moving forward.

“It has been almost a year now of long, emotional, and often painful days and nights,” Dr. Cole said. “This pandemic has affected all of us and has scarred some of us in ways we don’t even yet realize. As a combat surgeon who dealt with plenty of trauma and hardship, I know that many of our healthcare workers will be forever changed and that it’s important to take a moment to recognize the personal suffering we’ve each endured in order to keep going forward. This was cleansing for some and it showed great unity and appreciation for all.”

Two days before Valentine’s Day, the frontline workers braved single-digit temperatures for the observance.