Nurse-turned-lawyer Sally Broad Has a Unique Covid-19 Perspective

She's using her law career to advocate for her health care peers

Published in 2020 Upstate New York Super Lawyers Magazine

While many across the globe are hunkered down in their homes waiting out the Covid-19 pandemic, Buffalo’s Sally Broad is raring to go. And not because she misses her favorite pizza place or wants to stroll-and-shop in Elmwood Village. 

“I think almost every day that I wish I was out there on the front lines,” says the nurse-turned-health care attorney. “People used to say to me, ‘Oh, you left health care because you didn’t like it,’ and that is 100 percent wrong. I transitioned to the law precisely because I loved being in health care, emergency services and hospital administration. What I’m doing now allows me to advocate for and represent my peers.”

Broad began her health care career in a Buffalo hospital emergency department in 1973. “There was a real dearth of resources, but you took good care of you patients to the best of your ability,” she says. 

Her career took several evolutions: She worked in emergency response and preparedness and the upper levels of hospital administration. She remembers in the 1980s, when she was involved with getting the region’s first free-standing clinic up and running. “We were put through our paces by the New York Department of Health,” Broad says. “No one really knew what this animal was.” Broad laughs remembering how excited she and her colleagues were when patients would come. “We would stand at the windows saying, ‘A patient is coming! They just turned in to the driveway.’ Now I drive past it, and it’s really turned into a phenomenal success.” 

Broad’s training in emergency preparedness gives her unique perspective into the Covid-19 outbreak. 

“Health care providers and the industry as a whole are doing a good job now trying to wrap their arms around something that none of us could have anticipated,” Broad says. “It’s a very different model from traditional disaster response and preparedness, which operates on incidents. A train crash, a shooting—horrible emergencies, but they are incidents that occur and are not ongoing. But this is not an ‘incident.’ So we need to figure out how to transition our response to treat something ongoing.”

For Broad’s hospital clients, the kinds of care-model transitions Broad witnessed coming up as a health care worker are helping ease the impacts of Covid-19. 

“There are the big concerns and questions I’m answering from my clients—‘How do I get more PPE for our workers? What am I supposed to do about patients that come through the ED for non-emergent care? Can we turn them away?’—but we’re also talking a lot about transition to Covid care,” Broad says. “That transition has been facilitated by the fact that hospitals by are large are now doing so much on an out-patient basis. In the old days, you’d have to take an acute care unit and physically shift space and staff around.” 

She’s also seen a shift in increased autonomy for health care providers—which includes her son. “My son has been a paramedic for many years, and what’s changed for them out in the field is drastic,” she says. “They are now able to triage patients at a level much different than even a few weeks ago.”

While working as a health care attorney during a pandemic sounds like a constant-crisis situation, Broad says she hasn’t been as inundated as she thought she might be, in a traditional sense. 

“My hospital clients are savvy and well-prepared, while also acknowledging that much more burdensome issues could arise any day as the situation peaks,” she says. “I’m making myself available for questions as federal and state statutes regarding emergency departments change—previous mandates required all patients who cross the threshold be seen, for example, and given a screening and stabilized, but the apperance of Covid-19 has resulted in changing triage protocols and patient disposition.” There’s also a lot of creative trouble-shooting going on. “We are looking for different avenues to get what [my hospital clients] need. It’s not lawyering in the traditional sense, as I’m operating as a sounding board.”

While Broad’s deep personal ties to the front lines make it hard for her to sit still right now, she is quick to point out that it's in health care, it's a team effort: Just as critical as the faces you'll see in the ED or a Covid unit are the ones you won't. "They are working tirelessly behind the scenes and putting plans in place. I think about them often,” Broad says. “All we can do now is march forward. We will have a lot to revisit and reflect on once the real fire is out.”

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