Spotlight: Amber Antoni Promotes Readiness and Responsibility

Amber Antoni, MSN, RN, knows how to handle a crisis. Just ask anyone who's worked with her during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cincinnati Children’s director of Emergency Management previously served as the regional healthcare coordinator for The Health Collaborative, where she worked with all of the hospitals in eight counties of Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Indiana.

Along with that experience, she brings a deep knowledge of the medical center, where she began as a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in 2005. She advanced to charge nurse, then to the Managers of Patient Services (MPS) staff.

“My interest in emergency management was sparked as an MPS,” said Antoni. “So when a position opened up at The Health Collaborative, I applied. My duties there included administering healthcare preparedness grants via the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Readiness (ASPR) and working with the Ohio Department of Health on statewide and local preparedness exercises.”

A Different Approach

Historically, emergency preparedness has been described in terms of disasters—tornadoes, fire, epidemics, chemical spills—where the damage is acute and widespread. But, as we've seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more than that. Antoni is concerned with anything that impacts the medical center’s normal operations, including issues that could adversely affect our reputation.

“It’s a continuous cycle of mitigation,” Antoni explained. “Ideally, we are mitigating to a point where our risk is minimal to nonexistent. But we’re also preparing for and responding to events and then focusing on recovery. Much of my role is serving as a liaison and a resource to empower leadership and staff to continue the cycle on their own.”

With 24/7 access to news, it may seem like the number and frequency of disruptive situations in the world has increased. But Antoni is not so convinced of that.

“I think we’re just more aware of these events and being mindful of how to address them,” she said. “What may be a risk for Liberty Campus may not be a risk for Burnet Campus or College Hill. Each location has its own potential vulnerabilities that we mitigate individually.”

Defining Goals

Since her return to Cincinnati Children’s last November, Antoni has been visiting with multiple teams to assess our emergency preparedness processes and identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. Her main message for staff is ownership.

“Emergency preparedness applies to you—even if you think it doesn’t,” she said. “It’s important to know your evacuation routes, your resources and what types of precautions apply to your area so you can be prepared.”

She urges staff to stay educated, since processes can change over time, as we've seen with the pandemic. “Keep up with your operations plan and what you, as an individual, should do,” she said. “It’s part of the Safer Together culture to ask questions and to speak up when something feels unsafe. Emergency preparedness is a team concept, especially when it involves a large-scale event.”

She’s also a believer in the value of setting an example.

“You can’t control other’s behavior but, for instance, when the fire alarm goes off during a drill, your decision to get up from your desk and go down the stairs and outside to your meeting place can strongly influence others to do the right thing,” she explained.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we've had more opportunities to see and hear from Antoni as she's reached out to staff and shared her expertise. She wants everyone to have the tools they need to be the safest they can be.

“My goal is that Cincinnati Children’s will be the safest place for our staff and families,” she said, “and that, during any event, we will be able to provide optimal care to our patients.”

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