Love + Medicine is knowing what's important to your patients
This story comes from a grateful mom:
My daughter is 14 years old. A couple ofher baby teeth have not come out yet and she’s got adult teeth growing on top of them and sticking out through her gums. This is slightly painful physically, but more importantly to a teenager, it makes her very self-conscious.
She’s starting high school this fall, so we decided this summer would be a good time to get some braces to fix this issue. Gundersen Orthodontics is open in Onalaska only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as they work at other regional sites, too. After our consultation with Dr. (Michael) Barba, DDS, we were told my daughter couldn’t get her braces on until mid-September because of the high volume of patients and limited appointments available in Onalaska.
In the waiting room, my daughter was very upset. She really wanted to have the braces on before school started. I mentioned this to the patient liaison, Pam, and asked to be put on a cancellation list.
A few days later, Pam called. After we left, the staff discussed how a number of kids were disappointed because they wanted to get their braces on before school started. So the team—including Dr. Barba, patient liaisons Pam Thompson and Michelle Hompertz, patient treatment coordinator Darlene Forsberg and Kari Larson, and dental assistant Ella Hoefler—agreed to open Onalaska Orthodontics for an extra day, on a Friday in July, just for these kids.
The Orthodontics staff did not have to open their clinic that extra day, especially on a Friday in summer, but they did! Thanks to their extra efforts, my daughter got her braces on—a real boost to her self-esteem! To me, this is Love + Medicine!
Delivering Love + Medicine...just like mom
This story comes from Amy Halvorson, health unit coordinator:
There was a patient on the Cardio-Pulmonary Unit who was turning 20 years old. He is a student, originally from Guatemala, who says his mother made him a banana cake every year for his birthday.
His nurse for the day, Katie Walters, RN, arranged to have a banana cake, decorated with soccer balls, made and delivered to the hospital. Katie wanted to brighten his day since his family lives many, many miles away. He was also a patient in isolation and anyone coming into his room was required to use a PAPR mask (powered air purifying respirator).
Katie arranged a time for members of his care team to go in, banana cake in hand, and sing "Happy Birthday" to this young man. I was truly touched.
This is a perfect example of Love + Medicine thanks to Katie, Melissa Baxter, RN; Chris Lowry, MD; Sylvia Firary, MD; and Ryan Vaca, MD.
Practicing Love + Medicine one child at a time
This story comes from a very creative child life specialist Rachael Kaiser, Outpatient Surgery Center:
We had a young patient arrive who was having a small surgical procedure. The surgeon had warned us that she was a screamer.
My child life student and I looked up the patient's chart to prepare. We discovered she was an 11-year-old on the autism spectrum and had worked with a child life specialist before. The notes stated that on the earlier occasion, mom had prepared the child by bringing a variety of arts and crafts. She seemed to like that.
So, we searched our cabinets for several craft items and had them ready in her room when she arrived. Instead of being overwhelmed by a new space, she made a beeline right for the craft supplies and started crafting. We made sure that everyone took the time to explain things slowly to her and wait for her questions. When it was time to ride on the bed to surgery, we gave her an iPad to play with. She watched it until she was asleep. Her surgeon stated, "Wow, I can't believe how calm she was. Every time I've seen her in clinic, she's screamed the whole time she was there!"
The time we spent researching her past experiences and being flexible in how we got her ready for surgery made a huge difference to her and her mom. That is why we do what we do as child life specialists—to make a positive difference in the lives of the kids and families we work with every day.
Going the distance to deliver Love + Medicine
This sweet story comes from Joseph Larkin, CNA, Medical Oncology:
I have come to know a patient well after she had multiple stays on the Medical Oncology unit. We were talking one day and the subject of donuts came up. I mentioned Bloedow's Bakery in Winona, Minn. She said she loved their donuts. So, I promised her that on my next day off I would drive to Winona and get her a Bloedow's donut.
Well in the course of her next three hospitalizations, she was discharged on my days off so I was never able to get her the donut I promised. But during her most recent stay, I was able to get to Winona, buy her a delicious cream-filled donut and fulfill the promise I made. She was so happy and I was equally happy to make her day. It most definitely made her time in the hospital a little sweeter.
For this department, showing Love + Medicine is no 'sweat'
This story comes from the staff of Exercise Physiology including Jacob Hawes, Shannon Riley, Joel Dubiel, Michelle Dunlap, Tiffany Green and Brant Stevermer:
Exercise Physiology provides a maintenance exercise program for those looking for medically supervised exercise. Many of these participants have been with the program for years. In Exercise Physiology we have a unique opportunity to share life, and live out Love + Medicine with our participants for months and, in many cases, years. In particular, we love celebrating birthdays. With every willing participant, they are given a happy birthday hat and the entire class sings and extends happy birthday wishes. Making each and every patient of ours feel loved and cared for, especially on their birthday, is our objective. It is who we are.
Caring is in the blood
This story comes from a very grateful patient, Cynthia S. Menard:
I met Lorinda (Goede-Lane, support staff technician, Family Medicine-Gundersen Tomah Clinic) about 2½ years ago. The doctor told me I needed to have blood work done. Of course my first response was not good. All my life I have avoided needles. My veins are very small, deep and rolling. It can be almost impossible to draw blood. I once had someone poke me 11 times! It was an awful experience.
The first time I met Lorinda, I was extremely anxious. I needed a blood test for some stomach problems. The room was spinning, I felt sick to my stomach and was sweating profusely. Much to my relief, it took Lorinda only about a minute before the blood stared to flow. The entire time she comforted me while she worked.
I was later sent elsewhere to see specialists and both times I needed additional blood work. I told them I would like to go to the Gundersen Tomah Clinic so Lorinda could do it, and she was there for me!
I found out I have a rare autoimmune disease, so now I have my blood drawn every week or two. Lorinda has been there for me whenever I need her. She has even come in on her day off if I need her to. She always takes the time to sit and ask how I'm doing. She really truly cares and has done an amazing job!
Bev (Shong, medical lab technician) from the Tomah clinic helps Lorinda when I come for a visit. She has the same caring personality and is always comforting, too. I discussed with Lorinda that it would be good to have a back-up person in case she wasn't available; my choice would be Bev. Thank you Lorinda and Bev!
It's the little things that matter most
This story is from a grateful mother, Laurie Zabel:
During my daughter's second hospital stay in three weeks, Anita (Bashaw), our environmental assistant, and another staff member who was being trained, stopped and asked if they could do a quick cleaning of the room.
Anita then asked if we were still here or if we had come back. I explained we were back. As the two of them were going about their duties, the new staff member moved the garbage can to its "proper" location. Anita told her, "Oh, we will leave that by the bed. She prefers to have it there."
The smile on my daughter's face, because she was acknowledged, was priceless. And, I was amazed! Anita had cleaned many, many rooms and she had spoken with even more people since we last saw her, yet she remembered my daughter's preferences.
I know the Love + Medicine stories that people share are usually about the "hands on" care givers here at Gundersen, but the unsung heroes also do so much to make the patients and families comfortable. I thanked Anita for remembering. For me, this is also what Love + Medicine is about—not just the doctors and nurses, but the whole package of everyone we meet here at Gundersen.
It's more than skin deep
This story of love, patience and understanding comes from a grateful mother:
My son was born with a large mole that bothered him so much that he wouldn't even swim without a shirt on. We had the mole examined yearly by his pediatrician and there was no concern that it was cancerous so we never pursued getting it removed.
When my son turned 10 years old, he decided he wanted to have the mole removed. My son was very nervous about the procedure. I wanted to support his decision because I knew he would benefit so much from it.
Working with his pediatrician, Dr. (Kelly) Howell, child life specialist Jennifer Noel, Dr. (Yongxue "David") Yao and medical assistant Melissa Miller, we were able to get the mole removed. Dr. Howell referred us to the child life specialist to help with our son's anxiety and they were able to give us great suggestions. Dr. Yao and Melissa were so patient and understanding even when things didn't go as easy as planned. They spent way more time than they had to with my son to help with his nervousness. They really went above and beyond.
My son is so happy to have gone through with this procedure, even if it was a little scary. It really took a team to get this done and we appreciate everyone's hard work and dedication to their patients.
You are my sunshine
This story was witnessed by Gina Hayes, RN, Labor & Delivery:
Working as a Labor & Delivery nurse is such a privilege. To be able to witness new life coming into the world almost every day is such an honor and one that I will never take for granted. One story that has stayed fresh in my memory was when I was caring for a patient who was pregnant with her first baby and she wanted a water birth. She and her husband didn't know if they were having a boy or a girl.
The woman was so stoic, calm and peaceful during her entire labor. She worked hard laboring in the tub and was so excited to meet this little person. The moment the baby was born was one that I will never forget. She pulled her son out of the water, disbelief in her eyes, put him on her chest and started singing, "You Are My Sunshine."
Time stood still in that room. Our scrub nurse, midwife and I just stopped and stared with tears welling up in our eyes as this patient took in the most precious moment of her life. That song has been near and dear to my family and this just adds to the beauty of that song.
Witnessing the love these parents have for their new son in that moment was beautiful. Pure Love + Medicine.
Pen pal patient
This heartwarming story comes from Lynda Privet, RN, Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic:
I care for an Amish boy who has Type 1 diabetes, and his family. We had an education session together, not long after I started in Pediatric Endocrinology. He usually has appointments every three months. I was hopeful that I could get his blood sugar records from him prior to our next appointment, so if there was a problem, we could address it.
Because the Amish family has limited access to a phone, I was afraid there wasn't going to be a way to get his blood sugar numbers between appointments. That's when I got an idea.
I asked him if he ever wrote letters. He smiled at me, and said, "Sometimes." His mom spoke up and said, "Certainly we do!" So I asked him to send me a letter in midmonth. Last fall, I received my first letter here at work from my new "pen pal." Enclosed was a description of his blood sugars, along with a nice entry from his mother, talking about his diabetes. I shared the boy's blood sugar numbers with his provider, who then made some adjustments. I got out my pen and pad of paper and wrote back with the provider's recommendations. And so it continued each month.
It was such a great feeling, knowing that we were helping this family manage their son's diabetes in a way that was respectful of their lifestyle. It may not be the way everyone else does it, but a comfort to them. Hopefully they felt like they didn't have to manage alone between appointments.
Before long, the letters not only included important details about their son's diabetes, but also details about their life on the farm, and wishes to me to be well and stay warm. It is definitely a different way of practicing healthcare, but it certainly is Love + Medicine.
Paying it forward
This story comes from: Jane Hanson, patient liaison in Imaging:
This morning as I was eating breakfast in the Cafeteria with a friend and fellow Gundersen employee, my heart was touched. My friend excused herself and walked up to the cashier. There was a large group in line—the family of a very ill patient. My friend proceeded to buy their breakfasts for them. Later, I complimented her on her generosity, and she said, "I have been where they are and I just wanted to let them know I care." It is so nice to work with such generous, caring people.
Down syndrome doesn't define our child
This story is from Kim Fredrick, a mother on the receiving end of Love + Medicine:
Eight years ago my third child, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. This was an unexpected diagnosis for my husband and me. We were shocked and overwhelmed.
The doctors and nurses who cared for Matthew and me were incredibly kind and caring, seeming to go above and beyond their regular job duties to provide support to us. My primary doctor, Robyn Borge, MD, delivered the news in a compassionate manner and I did not detect any pity in her voice. A little over an hour after Matt was born (after 6 p.m.) Kerry Jedele, MD, from the Down Syndrome Clinic at Gundersen came to visit us.
Dr. Jedele was matter-of-fact when she told us about some of the challenges people with Down syndrome face, but she balanced this by explaining some of the strengths typically seen in people with Down syndrome. She made sure that we understood that Down syndrome is just one part of who Matt is; it does not need to define his existence.
Her words went something like this, "Matthew is the third child of Kim and Jeff. He is the younger brother to Rachel and Robbie. He will look a little like mom and a little like dad. He will enjoy playing with his siblings. He may like playing football. He might enjoy reading. He also happens to have Down syndrome."
Receiving the diagnosis in this way was incredibly comforting to me. Once we got to our room, it seemed like every nurse on the floor wanted to come in just to say "hi" and snuggle a little bit with Matthew. During the overnight, a very kind nurse stayed in the room with me for a little while, asking me how I was doing. These little extra touches gave my family comfort in a difficult time.
Not everyone is as fortunate as we were when we received the Down syndrome diagnosis. Some people are told only negative aspects about Down syndrome and are given an "I'm sorry" instead of "congratulations on the birth of your child." Gundersen provided us with just the right medical information and a large amount of compassion.
A song, a banner and a birthday
This story is from Alex Staffon, CNA, Surgical and Digestive Care Unit:
One of our patients had been on our unit for a longer-than-hoped-for period of time. She is one of those patients who is so grateful and sweet to all. Her birthday was inevitably going to be spent in the hospital, a fact that made everyone feel down. It fell on a Saturday and two of our floor's employees wanted to make it as special a day as possible.
Although they both had the weekend off, they came in with decorations for her room and a small gift for her to open. A few of us co-conspirators got the patient out of her room, taking her for a walk in the halls while the two ringleaders snuck in her room and hung "Happy Birthday" banners and streamers. When the patient got back to her room there was a group of about eight nurses and CNAs to sing to her. The patient was so surprised; her face lit up with joy. She was so happy and very grateful.
It is things and people like these that make Gundersen an amazing place to work! l
'A small gesture, but to me, it was huge'
A story from Amy Gerold:
I was at a difficult time in my life. I was 35 years old and facing a probable cancer diagnosis.
I was having a needle biopsy to confirm that it was cancer and to try and pinpoint exactly what kind it was. I was taken to a small room for the biopsy and no family members were able to come in with me. It was me, the doctor with his very large needle, and a nurse.
Just before the doctor was about to begin the procedure, the nurse asked if I would like her to hold my hand. That may sound like a strange question and maybe even like a small gesture, but to me, it was huge. It made me feel like I wasn't alone in all of this. It didn't matter that it was a stranger that was reaching out to me—it was human contact at a time when things were very scary. It was someone who showed they cared, not just about the diagnosis, but about the whole me. Holding my hand meant a lot to me then, and still does.
Heidi loved her work and it showed
From Darla and Bob Westedt, parents of Heidi Westedt:
Love + Medicine—without a doubt that's what our daughter, Heidi Westedt, received from Gundersen Health System. Had Heidi lived, she would have celebrated her 25th anniversary as an employee of Gundersen on May 29, 2015. Heidi died Jan. 10, 2015, due to complications following a bone marrow transplant a month earlier.
Heidi worked as a medical assistant at Gundersen. The last 15 years of her life she endured many hospitalizations and treatments for a blood disorder. She had to cut back to part time because of weekly infusions. Through all of this, her manager in Pediatrics and the staff in Human Resources worked with her to keep her employed.
We are so very grateful to Gundersen for the "Love + Medicine" shown to our Heidi. She was blessed by the many skilled providers who worked endlessly to figure out this difficult disease. Her coworkers covered many extra hours for her and she was so grateful for the many friendships with coworkers she had over the years.
Thank you, Gundersen, for showing our daughter compassion through her many trials. It wasn't just a job for Heidi. It was taking pride in where she worked and showing love to the patients she cared for over the years. We can't thank everyone by name as the list would go on and on. We can tell you how very much we appreciate all the people who came to her visitation and funeral service and helped at the "Hope for Heidi" benefit.
So you see, Love + Medicine is REAL at Gundersen, it's not just a slogan. May God bless each and every one of you as you continue to care for the many patients who count on you day after day.
Love and encouragement was the best medicine
From Jennifer Stuhr, RN, Inpatient Behavioral Health:
Our Behavioral Health staff was feeling sad for a young man that came to our unit on the day of his school graduation. He had no family present to support him or to celebrate this normally joyous occasion.
Our wonderful, compassionate chaplain Ann Tyndall decided we needed to celebrate and show him we were there for him. She bought a card and had the staff on the unit sign the card with words of encouragement for the future. Two cupcakes were ordered by Janice Lutz, RN, for a special treat.
All of the staff gathered around him and then presented the card and cupcakes. He looked shocked and when he opened the card and started reading, the look on his face was priceless. Tears streamed down his face and he was speechless. Finally, he looked at everyone present and said, "Thank you."
We all clapped and praised him for this momentous achievement. This was truly a Love + Medicine moment that touched all of our hearts.
Patient is saved a weekend of worry
From Tammy Dutton:
After having my second-ever mammogram, I was contacted for a follow-up visit because there was something out-of-the-ordinary on the image. I called Center for Women at 8 a.m. on a Thursday to schedule the follow-up. I was able to get in at 11 a.m. that same day for an ultrasound.
When I got to the appointment, mammography technologist Lori Costello must have seen my nervousness and gave me a hug. Andrew Meade, MD, performed an ultrasound and determined a biopsy was necessary. We decided to do the procedure immediately.
Lori was there with me through the entire process. She was compassionate and caring the entire time and made me feel safe and comfortable. Once the procedure was done, she took a mammogram and showed me exactly what the "tag" looked like that Dr. Meade had placed near the questionable spot. Before I left, she made sure I was OK and understood everything that had happened and would happen next. She also gave me another hug. I was (and still am) very grateful for those hugs.
I was told the results would be back within 48 hours, but because it was Thursday, this meant I may have to wait over the weekend until Monday. To my great relief, Dr. Meade contacted me Friday morning with news that the tumor was benign. In addition, I also received a call from my primary care provider Nancy Rowe, NP, on Friday afternoon. She just wanted to make sure I had received the results, because she didn't want me to worry all weekend. Even though the notes stated I had been contacted, she still took the time to make sure I had received the results. Thanks, Nancy!
Pediatrician grateful for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
From pediatric hospitalist Mark Neumann, MD:
I recently attended the Gundersen Medical Foundation and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®' Emerald Ball fundraiser and felt very grateful to our colleagues who work in the Foundation.
Many times we care providers encounter distressing life situations that our patients and their families are experiencing. It's distressing when we are not able to provide an extra gesture of compassion by offering a gift, but our professional relationships do not allow for this.
We are, however, able to make gifts to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and know that those gifts are used for many instances of practical relief to distressed families. I am grateful to the Foundation for that. Thank you!
Staff 'showers' an appreciative patient with kindness
From Kay Jones, RN, clinic manager, Preadmission:
In my 26 years of nursing, I thought I had fielded most any patient request possible. One evening while doing a patient call in Preadmissions, I had an uncommon patient request from a patient who was coming in for surgery the next day.
Due to a joint infection and removal of that joint, the patient had become unable to bear weight to stand. She explained that since coming home from the rehab center, she had not had a thorough shower for more than two weeks. She simply asked to have access to an accessible shower before her surgery.
On any other day, I could have coordinated this effortlessly, however I was uncertain if I could arrange this because the hospital census was extremely high. In looking at the census report again, I noticed that the Rehab unit might be able to help. The staff on the Rehab unit was so friendly and accommodating for this patient and it felt so good to be able to arrange this as a team.
It makes me proud knowing that I work with other professionals who only want the best care for every patient that we see. Truly an wonderful example of Love + Medicine.
An amazing nurse inspires one woman to follow in her footsteps
From Kathryn Hauser:
I had an amazing experience when my daughter was born last March at Gundersen. When I was in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum all of the nurses were exceptional, but one in particular was amazing! Her name was Michelle Sulentic but they call her Missy.
By the time Missy started her shift I had been in labor for more than 24 hours. I was exhausted and didn't think I had anything left in me. Missy managed to make me laugh and keep my spirits up when I didn't think I could do it anymore. I definitely kept her on her toes with many questions and I know by the end I wasn't the most pleasant person because of the pain. But she never once made me feel like I was irritating or annoying her.
Missy made me laugh, showed compassion and treated me as if I was the only person that mattered. I don't know how to explain it, but she was so kind and friendly that it almost felt like I had known her for years when I had only met her that day.
Missy is truly an amazing nurse and because of her I am now enrolled in college at Winona State to become a nurse. I only hope that one day, I can be as amazing as Missy!
Gundersen pharmacy tech found the perfect prescription
From Rebecca Nindort:
We've been piloting a new program in the hospital called Meds to Bed or Concierge. One of our Pharmacy technicians, Mona Grandall, participates in that program. Her role is to meet with patients in the Hospital and give them information about the service.
While visiting with one patient, Mona and the patient discovered they both enjoy reading, but the patient had no books with her. The next day Mona came to work with three books from her home library she thought the patient might enjoy. I thought that was such a generous and thoughtful gesture.
Making a big impression on a little girl
This story was shared by Lori Van Lin, director of Volunteer Services about Linda Arentz, one of the many wonderful volunteers at Gundersen:
Clinic Information Desk volunteer Linda Arentz got to know a young girl, around 8 years old, who came in regularly on Tuesdays for appointments. The girl's appointments were going to change to days when Linda would not be on duty. So, the girl gave Linda a note and drawing to let her know how much she would miss seeing her!
he note says, "Dear Linda, I will miss you. When I grow up, I will be like you!"
This is a perfect example of the impact our volunteers have on our patients just by being themselves and caring!
The Patient Services Specialist (PSS) provides superior face-to-face customer service in greeting and assisting patients, family, visitors and internal customers. They perform an important role in facilitating the patient experience by promoting a patient and family centered atmosphere throughout the check in/out process.
A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. These are not just words: They're the code PSS representatives live by.
The department shares this story of how PSS staff practice Love + Medicine:
Recently, a diabetic patient arrived at the Gundersen La Crosse Clinic for several medical appointments. It is important that patients—especially diabetic patients—have food available when they will have multiple appointments and will spend a great deal of time at our clinic.
But on this day, this patient didn’t have a packed lunch and no money to purchase lunch from our Cafeteria. Assisting the patient was one of our PSS staff members (who wishes to remain anonymous) The PSS recognized the situation and took action.
The PSS presented the patient with the Cafeteria choices for the day and was prepared to purchase the patient something to eat. However, the patient felt the menu choices would all be too heavy.
So the PSS asked the patient if a turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, some cantaloupe and a bottle of water sounded better.
It sure did!
It was the lunch our PSS had packed and brought to work that day. Our staff member gave the patient that lunch.
'They made a very difficult day just a little bit easier'
From Michelle Thew, Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics Hillsboro:
I'm sharing this story, not only as a family member, but also as an employee. On April 13, my husband's uncle Joe was flown from Mauston to Gundersen after suffering cardiac arrest. I was the first family member to arrive in La Crosse, about 45 minutes after his arrival. The Emergency Services staff directed me straight to Critical Care.
A doctor met me and explained that Joe was in critical condition. He was a very sick man. Other family started to arrive, and around 4:30 p.m., we were able to see Joe. The prognosis was not good. While we waited, we were kept up to date and allowed to stay in the room with him.
More chairs were brought in as more family came. The nurses and doctors explained everything they were doing to keep him comfortable. A basket of coffee, juice, cookies and apples was brought in. Someone from Spiritual Care came to check on us.
By 10:30 p.m., the last of our family arrived from Minneapolis. A provider brought us together and explained everything, after which we met as a family and agreed to what Joe wanted. About 11:40 p.m., he was disconnected from the ventilator. At 11:59 p.m. a baby was born (we all cried tears of happiness when we heard the lullaby music). At 12:08 a.m., Joe passed away peacefully, with his family at his side.
He was given the utmost respect and care those few hours he was there. A perfect stranger, yet he was treated as though they knew him forever. We were all treated like family. I know this was everyone's "job," however, from start to finish—from the Emergency Services receptionist at 2 p.m., to the person in Security who helped us find our cars at 12:40 a.m. (which Valet Services had parked hours before) and everyone in between—it was all more than anyone of us ever expected.
Thank you all, for making that very difficult day just a little bit easier. Care, compassion and respect go a very long way. It will never be forgotten.