Monday, October 31, 2016

Partners in Care: The Providence Hospitals Heroes

Over the course of the ten years since we at National Health Foundation (NHF) have been honoring the work of the Hospital Heroes among us, we have come to know many staff members from one of our partner hospital networks in Southern California: Providence Health & Services, Southern California. This year we have 6 nominees from 6 of the Providence hospitals. The Providence mission of compassionate care to the poor and vulnerable is something that each of their nominees espouses, however, as heroes, they have gone above and beyond their hospital’s mission to deliver heartfelt care that has resonated with patients, their families and the community.

The 11th Annual Hospital Heroes Awards Luncheon will be held this Friday, November 4th, 2016. Nominees will be recognized and winners of the Hospital Heroes will be announced. It will be an opportunity to meet these nominees:

Carol Yokoyama has dedicated her career, and some would say her life to the mission of caring for infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. She has been an employee here for 45 years. Difficult as it can be with this population of delicate patients, the dedication and emotional bond a NICU nurse shares with the family of a premature or sick infant is often the thread that holds them together during the exhausting, heartbreaking journey a family experiences when their child is born sick or too early. Pictures of past patients line the walls in the break room and remind every one of this important work NICU nurses do every day. Carol is one of these nurses. She is the kind of nurse who has comforted mothers as they held their dying infants and the kind of nurse who shares in the joy of an infant born four months early, finally going home.

Alexis Schoffstall began working earlier this year as a kitchen worker at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. The mother of a little toddler with autism, she was hired on a per diem basis for a new hospitality program -  delivering meals to patients, providing coffee and other small comforts to visitors and offering a little companionship. She proved a perfect fit, living the Providence core value of compassion as she spent time with her patients, listening, chatting and engaging. One of her patients was losing his battle with cancer at just 39, his grieving mother rarely leaving his bedside, growing frail as she kept vigil. When Alexis went home, she made sandwiches, cut up fruit and vegetables, bought candy, and came back later that day, her child in tow to drop the food off for the mother. She wanted to be anonymous. Co-workers told the woman a secret admirer had dropped off the food. Hospital Chief Executive Julie Sprengel learned of Alexis’s act of kindness and said she was so touched she was moved to tears. “During this time of sadness and confusion across our nation and the world, we can sometimes forget that every day there are people all around us participating in selfless acts of kindness for each other and often for complete strangers,” shared Sprengel in a note to the entire staff.

Mary Smidderks, from Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, is a hero because she inspires patients and their families as well as uplifts staff too! Fellow nurses have called her “a ray of sunshine to our oncology patients” and her Tea Lady service, “balm for the spirit”.  Mary created her own program putting her love of tea, linens, and fresh flowers to work. She met with 12 different hospital leaders to share her plans. Together they created a ‘tea service’ program for oncology and palliative care patients. “Teresa” was recovering from extensive surgery for ovarian cancer and was understandably withdrawn, depressed and in pain. Despite encouragement, she was reluctant to get out of bed and take a few steps. Mary busied herself with preparing the tea service while sharing her own story of how she learned to appreciate the beautiful moments in life. Teresa selected a crocheted blanket for her lap, an English Rose teacup, Chamomile tea and embroidered linen for her bedside table. A small vase of flowers from Mary’s garden completed the transformation.
As Teresa sipped tea, she smiled and became more animated, sharing some of the details of her difficult journey. Later that day, two women walking in the hallway; it was Teresa and her mother. They smiled and expressed gratitude for the kindness offered by Mary. It was not medical facts that helped Teresa, it was quite simply human interaction and the act of service with compassion provided by the Tea Lady that set Teresa on the road towards healing.

La Verna McMiller, from Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, manages one of the most challenging patient care units in the state, the sub-acute care center at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro. Patients are transferred from hospitals throughout the state with gunshot wounds, terminal cancer, and other life threatening conditions. She urges her nurses to never give up on a patient and shares her motto, “Miracles do happen”. La Verna leads her team with a sense of optimism resulting in amazing outcomes for patients who were never expected to return home. “I’ve always liked working with these patients who I believe have the greatest potential of getting better. I don’t give up on them,” shares La Verna. Over a 27-year tenure, La Verna has become known for the personal connection that she makes patients and their families and has an uncanny way of remembering details about them. She is a fierce guardian of safety especially around infection control, which is extremely important as most of her patients are ventilator, tracheostomy -dependent or in a vegetative state. La Verna single handedly manages this 125-bed specialty unit assuming both administrative and clinical oversight. La Verna is on call seven days a week and regularly comes in on weekends and evenings to meet with patient families and staff. She understands the value of recognition for her team and special events for her patients and makes sure that every birthday and holiday is a celebration.

Cara Armstrong, ED Clinical Nurse at Providence Tarzana Medical Center is a hero because she inspires her whole team. She often works with patients who are homeless and in need of more than just medical care. She takes her time with them, treating all with dignity, and helping them to shower or shave and get fresh clothing. Recently, she worked with an elderly couple in the ER on Christmas Day. The wife was admitted in a delicate and weakened state and her husband was weary but couldn’t bring himself to leave. Cara promised that his wife would not pass away alone. After a period of long deliberation, the husband was eased and left to rest with his family. As the wife’s condition continued to deteriorate, Cara stayed by her side and she did not die alone. Cara was able to share beautiful memories to help comfort the family. For Nurses Week, instead of receiving gifts, Cara motivated her department to give a scholarship to Lily, a beloved woman who helps clean rooms. She raised $3,000 toward a scholarship so Lily could attend classes to become a certified nurse’s assistant. Cara convinced doctors, clerks and others to contribute. Lily cried when she was surprised by Cara and the team with a scholarship check. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I feel happy for my family too. I know it’s going to be different — for my son, for my daughter, for my grandson, for my mom.”

Dr. Brian Madden of the Providence St. John’s Health Center truly exemplifies the description of a Hospital Hero. He has made a special and lasting contribution in his role as the Director of Palliative Care Services in the past year. He provides compassionate care to patients who are suffering and the family members who provide support under extremely difficult circumstances. Dr. Madden has expanded the necessary scope of services at our hospital to care for patients, especially in our Critical Care Units. He has educated other physicians on the role of palliative care in providing needed support for all patients, not just those with terminal illnesses. Brian is a tireless champion who helps patients and families work with caregivers to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. He has worked with physicians both in and out of the hospital to educate them on the benefits of palliative care for their patients and the making of difficult decisions. Dr. Madden has expanded the scope of palliative care to include the entire continuum of care, bringing his services into the outpatient arena, helping patients and families understand their life choices and decisions at times that may not be so emotionally stressful. Brian is a deeply caring, empathic, and pragmatic physician who is dedicated to the complete care of his patients. His easy-going style and warm personality have helped him broach the difficult subject of palliative care with physicians on our medical staff at all levels.

For National Health Foundation, recognizing Hospital Heroes is especially important because we are a nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the health of individuals and underserved communities by taking action on the social determinants of health and bridging gaps in the health care system and it is through our partnerships in the community that we are able to effect change. Hospital Hero luncheon proceeds will directly benefit National Health Foundation programs.

For more information about National Health Foundation, please click here.

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