By BETSY TAYLOR
To boost nursing staff morale at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, nurse Rebekah Hartzog put out pink paper hearts, where nurses could write notes for one another. They'd share compliments or thank-you messages, highlighting good work by a colleague, including patient care steps taken by nurses the shift before them.
Hartzog then posted the written messages in a staff room, under a sign reading "The Heart of the Matter." Staff would peek at the back of the hearts, and seeing their name on the flip side, realize a co-worker had noticed their efforts. The simple notes improved communication and connection in the mother-baby unit at the Springfield, Ore., hospital, Hartzog said.
PeaceHealth recognized Hartzog's effort as an "Everyday Moment of Grace." Sarah Ness, vice president of marketing and consumer analytics, described Everyday Moments of Grace as "often small, but powerful examples of humanity at its best — caring for one another."
PeaceHealth launched its Everyday Moments of Grace project at the start of 2017 to call attention to meaningful moments that transform the day. Staff in the three states where PeaceHealth operates — Washington, Oregon and Alaska — as well as patients or other members of the public can submit stories about their PeaceHealth experiences through peacehealth.org/everyday-moments; the PeaceHealth communications staff shares many of the stories there. They update the written stories and produce videos of several of the stories throughout the year.
The stories reinforce that PeaceHealth employees and volunteers go above and beyond in the work they do and the service they provide.
Brenda Bowie, a family nurse practitioner who cares for patients on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island, shared a story also featured on the website. She lives on the island, which is about 135 miles long. Many residents know each other. It's not unusual for a patient, sometimes a neighbor or a friend, to ask Bowie a health care question when they run into her at the grocery store. "We take care of patients from womb to tomb," she said.
One of her patients, an elderly man, lived on a boat. Bowie had made house calls there. Her colleagues at PeaceHealth Medical Group in the community of Craig were in the process of linking the man to island resources when he died from a trauma, she said.
"When he passed, we realized no one was going to do anything to recognize his life; and, as a staff, we felt it was important that everybody have their life marked. We arranged with a local church to hold a memorial service for him." Staff made the memorial service program. They cooked food for a gathering after the service.
"The saddest part is he had no idea how many people cared for him. We filled that church," she said. She said the service was a reminder that people can and should reach out to one another for connection.
Touch of the sacred
Dianna Kielian, PeaceHealth's senior vice president of mission, theology and ethics, described grace as "an overwhelming hug from the sacred, which is all forgiving and all loving." She said Everyday Moments of Grace stories inspire her with the knowledge that "with all the ups and downs in health care, it's really all about the ministry; it's about the service."
One of Kielian's favorite Everyday Moments of Grace stories is of Gail Alguire, who was treated for breast cancer, and then began making quilts for use by patients receiving treatment at a PeaceHealth infusion center in Ketchikan, Alaska. Alguire says in a PeaceHealth video about the quilts she and others made that she hopes patients feel the love the quilters stitch into every quilt they make.
Kielian said of Alguire's quilt making, "It was a way for her to say to other cancer patients like herself that you're not alone in this, that someone does care about you."
PeaceHealth posts its Everyday Moments of Grace stories on Facebook, uses the videos and stories as reflections before board meetings and staff meetings, and draws from the submissions to recognize employees with mission and values awards.
Nurses in the mother-baby unit at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend share short appreciations of each other on pink paper hearts.
The system gives 48 such awards each year, one in each location where it has an acute care facility. Five of those recipients are honored systemwide: four with an award for reflecting a PeaceHealth value of respect, stewardship, collaboration or social justice, a fifth award is given for overall commitment to the system's mission and values. PeaceHealth presents the awards the week of Jan. 7, the date when the first congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace was founded in 1884. The sisters are the system's founders and continue to guide it in sponsorship and leadership roles.
PeaceHealth employees said Everyday Moments of Grace stories show how the system's Catholic mission is reflected in its patient care and in how employees treat one another. "Often the amazing stories that happen when no one is looking are now being celebrated," Ness said.
Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.