Engineering alumna helps guide Raleigh hospital through COVID-19 crisis
For Dr. Linda Butler, there are no normal days.
As vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh, Butler is responsible for quality and performance improvement, infection prevention, risk management, research and medical staff affairs for a system with more than 7,400 staff members and multiple facilities including Raleigh’s oldest hospital.
Her work involves ensuring that the REX staff has the equipment and supplies needed to be successful and that patients are safe and receive the best care. Zero falls. Zero pressure ulcers. Zero healthcare-associated infections.
“We strive to provide high quality, low-cost healthcare,” said Butler, who holds a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from NC State, a master’s degree in medical physics from the University of Florida and an M.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill.
With this year’s global outbreak of the COVID-19 respiratory disease, Butler is working with the system’s leadership team, officials at other North Carolina hospitals and county and state officials to ensure that REX is ready to provide the care that is needed while protecting its physicians, nurses and other front-line healthcare workers. That includes a lot of online meetings, time spent on the hospital floor talking to staff members and several press briefings.
During an interview in early April, Butler said that REX is doing well and handling the need for COVID-19 patient care.
While daily patient care has decreased (the hospital normally cares for about 520 patients or more a day and about 300 patients are in the facility now after elective surgeries were suspended) training and preparation for a possible COVID patient surge has increased.
“The public wants to know that their hospitals will be ready to take care of them,” she said. “And we are.”
Butler said that she spends a lot of time working with the hospital’s CEO, COO and chief nursing officer on training and preparation.
Challenges have included dealing with supply chain disruptions that have made acquiring essential items like personal protective equipment for providers more challenging, and keeping up with the changing guidance on the best ways to deal with the pandemic.
“This is where it’s been crucial to have a great team working together, because you can’t do this as one person,” Butler said.
Still an Engineer
Butler’s father became ill during her junior year at NC State.
“That’s when I decided that healthcare might be something that I wanted to do,” she said.
After earning her medical degree and completing a residency in pediatrics, Butler served as managing partner for Capitol Pediatric Adolescent Center in Raleigh for 13 years. During that time, she served on multiple hospital committees, became the chair of pediatrics at Duke Raleigh Hospital and later REX and was elected president of the medical staff at REX.
She reconnected with NC State after talking to Engineering Dean Dr. Louis Martin-Vega at a conference hosted by SAS. She currently serves on the board of directors for the NC State Engineering Foundation.