Cameo of Caring® Award
Saint Vincent Hospital
Diane Boyd, an ICU nurse, knew she wanted to become a nurse at age three.
“My parents gave me a nurse’s kit for my third birthday. Even to this day, I remember doing dressing changes on my neighbor, and telling everyone that I would become a nurse. I never looked back.”
According to Diane, the patient care experience that had the most impact on her career was a personal one. In 2008, her mother passed away of lung cancer at the age of 66. Diane took on the role of caregiver yet again, but this time from a different perspective.
“So much of my work in the ICU involves palliative care, pain management, end-of-life decision making, education about the dying process, family relations—all of the things that my family and I were contending with at that point in time,” said Diane. “Despite all of the emotion involved, I felt instrumental in helping her through the dying process. This has impacted the way I care for my patients and their families every day since.”
According to Jean Lindenberger, ICU Manager who nominated Diane for the Cameos of Caring Award, “Diane treats every patient as if they were a family member, but is also an experienced preceptor that fosters an excellent learning atmosphere. Others look to her for guidance, and her own daughter is now in nursing school after shadowing and seeing her mother in action!”
Diane is both a role model and a patient advocate—it’s all part of a day’s work for this caring and compassionate nurse.
No matter how Rashko starts his day, his patients and their families are always first. On one occasion, he had an extremely ill patient. That patient required high-level ventilation, and eventually ECMO support. Rashko diligently cared for the patient, and worked with the family during this difficult time.
He was so involved in his patient care, no one realized he had stayed several hours past his shift. He did this without a complaint or recognition, but simply because his patient needed him and his care. Often in ICU, end-of-life patients become challenging to provide support to their families and maintain patient dignity during death. Rashko worked diligently to research the topic and find evidence on respiratory distress in end-of-life care.
In his research, he discovered a tool to be implemented in the ICU to better provide care to patients at this stage of life.
"Rashko is a leader and drives change in our organization," said Jill Direnzo, Nurse Manager ICU, Forbes. "He recently joined the MAGNET Committee. He took the initiative to do research on the history of MAGNET, and presented to staff. This was a true example of mentoring of his peers and engaging them in the journey. He did this without being told, because he thinks this is important for our profession. His leadership is recognized by many on our unit and is a valuable asset to drive us to do better."
Katie Ferguson, a registered nurse in Canonsburg Hospital’s emergency department, credits her family with inspiring her to become a nurse.
“I’ve always been a ‘mother hen,’ helping others when they are sick or hurting. That’s innate for me, but I also come from a family of clinicians—doctors, nurses, etc.—and they’ve inspired me in ways they don’t even know,” says Katie.
Her supervisor and the manager of Canonsburg’s ED, Julie Ference, nominated her for the 2017 Cameos of Caring Award.
According to Julie, “Katie is a role model within our department—she strives for continued education and wants everyone around her to be learning. She sits on our Nurse Collaboration Council, sharing feedback from her department and offering ways to improve the patient experience. The department is a brighter place with her in it.”
Educating patients is one of the most satisfying parts of working in the ED, according to Katie.
“I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to serve others in this way. It’s humbling to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life—each and every day.”
From a young age, the nursing profession caught the eye of Janice McDowell, a behavioral health nurse at Jefferson Hospital. The idea of being able to touch individuals’ lives in positive ways was intriguing. To act as a glimmer of light and hope for those experiencing their darkest of hours—parents, spouses, siblings—was inspiring.
According to Janice, “I wanted to be that light—the person who could lend a helping hand, make a difference and most importantly, save a life.”
As a behavioral health nurse, Janice works to educate family members, friends, and the community about the reality of mental illness, helping them to understand its intricacies and how it often impairs a person’s ability to cope with stress.
“It’s gratifying to be able to bring this branch of medicine to light—and demonstrate that individuals who suffer from mental illness can be treated in ways that allow for a productive life. It’s getting those phone calls from prior patients who thank you for helping them get back on their feet that truly makes working in this field rewarding,” says Janice.
Her passon for her work is evident as she tells the story of a young man that was admitted to her unit after he experienced a schizophrenic break. Janice took the opportunity to educate and guide the family through the crisis. She helped them to understand the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia, the importance of medication compliance, and contacts for crisis teams in the event of a future occurrence. They left feeling reassured that they had the help they needed, and could handle their son’s care with confidence.
In her free time, Janice attends mental health seminars, always looking for ways to better care for patients. This type of drive is just one reason she is a recipient of the Cameos of Caring award.
West Penn Hospital
Neil Palmquist, a registered nurse in West Penn Hospital’s Medical Short Stay Center, was originally inspired to become a nurse by his mother.
“Taking care of people and helping them through some of the most difficult and trying times of their lives is one of the most rewarding things about being a nurse,” says Neil. “I enjoy educating my patients about their condition and how we’re treating them.”
When asked to share a story about a special patient, Neil cites a patient in the MSSC that had intrathecal chemotherapy. She was anxious to return home to call her husband, who worked on a boat off the west coast and would be heading out to sea for three weeks, without cell phone service. When she left the MSSC, she forgot her cell phone. Neil knew her cell was the only phone she had, and was concerned that she would not be able to connect with her husband, and would also not have a method for outreach if she was experiencing complications with her chemotherapy.
So, after work that day, Neil set out to her home to deliver the phone. As luck would have it, this was also the same day the Liberty Bridge caught on fire and was closed. After spending a couple of frustrating hours in traffic, Neil decided to go home and wait for rush hour traffic to clear. But, he didn’t give up. Later that evening, he and his wife set out, armed with a GPS, and made it to the patient’s home. According to Neil, “The look on her face made it all worthwhile.”
This kind of dedication makes Neil a worthy recipient of the 2017 Cameos of Caring Award.
Allegheny General Hospital
For Jodie Straughn, RN, Allegheny General Hospital, early memories of her grandmother are what led her down the path of nursing.
She recalls being four or five years old, and her grandmother visiting her family early in the morning after she finished working the night shift. She would arrive in her white pressed dress, cap, stockings and shoes, donned with gold nursing pins on her lapel that shined. With her warm smile and compassionate heart, to Jodie, her grandmother was an angel.
Years later, her grandmother fell ill and spent time in and out of the hospital during her final years.
“I would watch the skillful care that the nurses gave my grandmother. It was watching them care for the most special person in my life that stirred something inside me. At that moment, I knew that my purpose and passion was to become a nurse.”
Jodie goes on to describe what appeals most to her about the profession, “The best part of being a nurse is the human component—the caring aspect. To have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, that’s what makes it worthwhile. Nursing is more than a profession. It’s a calling.”
She fondly recalls a special patient she took care of years ago—a women in her 90s that was a retired nurse and a nun. She took the time to get to know the patient and developed an admiration for the strong, fierce, independent woman she once was, who gave so much of herself to others throughout her lifetime.
As she held her hand in those final moments, she read a collection of devotionals and a single tear rolled down the woman’s face. She called Jodie her “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“She touched my heart and it’s her light that shines on within me, “says Jodie. “This is why I do what I do.”
Allegheny Valley Hospital
According to Gwendolyn Talkish, staff nurse at Allegheny Valley Hospital, the most satisfying part of being a nurse is the ability to positively impact the lives of others.
“I think it’s an awesome privilege to be a nurse. Nurses save lives. That’s why I’m active in mentoring and recruiting future nurses, as it’s important to me to help shape tomorrow’s caregivers.”
A special passion for Gwendolyn is her collaboration with “Lost Dreams Awakening,” a community organization for those in or seeking recovery from addiction. Her continued work with this organization was inspired by a special patient—a young man in his 30s that had overdosed on heroin. His father found him, and performed CPR until EMS arrived.
As an ED nurse, Gwendolyn treated and monitored him until he was stable. She also connected him with Lost Dreams Awakening to help prevent further overdoses, and offer the conduit to a rehabilitation facility. A volunteer from the agency arrived in the ED within 20 minutes of the call. This “Warm Handoff” approach has become a best practice across the United States, as health care workers continue to care for patients overcome with opiate addiction.
According to Gwendolyn, “Collectively, nurses are a powerful group. I’m proud to have the power to effect positive change for our patients and community members.”