Station fire prompted changes at Rhode Island Hospital

The burn shower at Rhode Island Hospital.

The Station nightclub fire of Feb. 20, 2003, not only changed lives, but it changed one entire institution.

Rhode Island Hospital learned many lessons that fateful night. The nurses who were on duty said they'll never forget it.

"Watched it live, and then immediately went back to the unit and started moving all of the patients out of the unit," said Melissa Barney, a Rhode Island Hospital nurse.

Rhode Island Hospital took in more than 60 burn patients from The Station nightclub fire.

"I remember one of my patients asked me to call work because he was not going to be reporting to work that day," said Cecelia Echevarria, a Rhode Island Hospital nurse.

While many of the staff is still here 10 years later, a big change since The Station fire is that the hospital is now verified as a burn center by the American Burn Association.

"I don't know if that would have happened, if we would have put the resources into it had The Station fire not happened," said Dr. William Cioffi, Rhode Island Hospital surgeon-in-chief.

It has meant more training and education for personnel, and more equipment to handle burn patients.

"Now that we're burn certified, we were able to get (a) burn unit as well as (a) burn shower," said Marian Rachko, a Rhode Island Hospital nurse.

"Wake up call for us to say, 'Let's take the next step,'" said Dr. David Harrington, director of Rhode Island Hospital's burn center.

Harrington said an important component to come out of verification is the hospital's burn support group.

"Know that they have a place every quarter to come and talk and meet people who were burned. It can be lonely out there without a support group," Harrington said. "So, I think it was really great. It's one of the things we wouldn't have done."

Another major improvement in the 10 years since The Station fire is communication.

"Absolutely a decade later there are so many things that have been done within the EMS community, hospitals, communications, and just integration and collaboration between all the parties that never really existed before," said Peter Ginaitt, Lifespan's director of emergency preparedness.

Ginaitt said high tech tools have been implemented since The Station fire to track patients.

Every EMS vehicle is now equipped with a patient tracking system to send critical information to hospitals before the patients even arrive.

"We as a state are actually doing what no other state is doing -- that's tracking every patient, every day," Ginaitt said.

Communication enhances care and helps those on the front line.

"We have even more people now dedicated to care of trauma patients than we did back then," Cioffi said.

The hospital has learned and grown in 10 years.

"When you have such a horrible thing happen and you see your colleagues at their best -- whatever discipline they're in -- just gives you overwhelming sense of pride," said Bonnie Blaney, a Rhode Island Hospital nurse.

And preparedness that comes from having gone through it.

"I hope we never have to do that again," Rachko said, "but we could if we have to."