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Nursing Excellence

Sacred Encounters

At St. Joseph Hospital, we believe every interaction with our patients, visitors and fellow team members should be a Sacred Encounter. In fact, we believe so strongly in Sacred Encounters that it is one of the main initiatives in our organizational strategic plan. Sacred Encounters do not necessarily refer to a religious experience; instead, they set the tone for the daily connections we make with each other.

In the following features articles, members of our Nursing team share a little about themselves and their interpretations of Sacred Encounters:

Merri Lynn Anderson, R.N., BC, CN II, Medical Pulmonary Unit

Merri Lynn, please tell us about your background.
I was born in Orange County and grew up in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. I can remember at about 10 years of age having a neighbor lady ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I told her I wanted to be a nurse. I’ve always liked taking care of people and helping them feel better.

My senior year in high school I signed up for a course similar to an ROP program, not realizing I had to have a job! So I became a nurse’s aide at Mesa Verde Convalescent Hospital in Costa Mesa. I ended up dropping the course because of all the paperwork, but kept the job and went on to Santa Ana College’s Nursing Program. From there I came to St. Joseph Hospital (in 1987) and have been working here ever since. I started on 3 West, which was the medical floor at the time, and when the units were reorganized in 1992 I chose to stay with the respiratory patients. I like the variety on our unit and never have a boring day. When patients apologize for their illness I reassure them that we know nobody asks to be sick or in the hospital, and I try to make their stay as positive as possible. I’ve stayed because the people have kept me here. I have great coworkers.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
For me, teamwork is an important aspect of Sacred Encounters. It can be a bad day with family issues, hectic flow of patients and busyness with procedures, but what makes the difference is how our team helps each other.

Can you recall a Sacred Encounter you’ve had here?
This past year I had a patient who was having difficulty breathing and deteriorating, so we called for the MET team. Before they got here, there were three or four of us from our unit taking care of that patient. No matter what everyone had been doing they came to help until the MET team came and transferred her to the ICU. The support really helped. It was so nice that I was not alone trying to deal with the situation.

Jeannie Bennett, R.N., BSN, CNOR, Nursing Manager, Operating Room

Jeannie, please tell us about your career background.

A year after graduating from nursing school I left the Philippines and moved to New Jersey where I worked in a small hospital for eight years. I hated the weather and moved to California. The only place I applied was Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. I wanted to be at a large hospital with an open-heart surgery program. I was there for 16 years until it was time for a change. So, six years ago I called Christine Phipps, who I’d met when she worked at Long Beach Memorial, and who was the OR manager here at the time. I came to St. Joseph Hospital because of the pediatric open-heart program and I wanted to complete my nursing experience.

Five years ago when Christine was promoted to OR assistant director I pursued the OR manager position. As I expected it was very challenging, but the doctors and I have warmed up to each other. We now see eye to eye and I know they appreciate me and I appreciate them. When you’re coming from the outside as the new nurse on the block, you have to prove yourself to nurses – then they become your best friends. We are very fortunate to have good nurses in CVOR. It is the collaborative effort and cohesiveness that make the team shine.

We’re a growing area, and it’s exciting to see what’s coming with our Hybrid OR, opening this summer. This will be the first true hybrid in Orange County because of the technology we’ll have and the fact that it’s located within the OR. It integrates the Cath Lab and OR for the latest procedures, like percutaneous valve implantation. Instead of opening the chest, it will be performed through a hole (in the groin). We expect to see it approved by the FDA by next spring, so we will have time to perfect our skills. We were fortunate to have the space for the Hybrid OR. It’s a big room that took four of our former OR suites to accommodate all of the equipment and people who may need to be present. Like our new ORs in the PCC, everything hangs from the ceiling. The robotic C-arm reminds me of the movie Transformers.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Two people talking, connecting and understanding each other.

Can you share a memorable Sacred Encounter?
One thing I do every morning is check to see if we have a pediatric patient and if we do I make it a point to meet the parents. I introduce myself and reassure them. They’re very nervous, and sometimes they burst into tears. Most of the time whatever I say to them they won’t hear. The only thing that registers is the phrase, “We’ll take good care of your baby.” I bring the baby to the OR and have another nurse meet us to bring the baby to the room, then I take the family to the waiting area. I tell them how long we expect the surgery to be and update them with the progress as often as possible.

Because we have excellent surgeons and anesthesiologists we get to see some of our patients return (staging the repairs). I usually don’t recognize the children because they’ve grown so much. I do recognize the parents and they remember me and tell me about their baby. I tell them that although a subsequent surgery has its difficulties (because of scarring and adhesion inside), because the child is bigger his or her chances of recovery are better. I see a failure-to-thrive baby before surgery and few months later I’m able to say, “What a butterball!” These encounters are a very fulfilling aspect of my job.

Linda Buck, R.N., Oncology Nurse, Infusion Center

Linda, what is your background?
A friend of mine (Pam Matten, R.N.) convinced me I had to come to St. Joseph Hospital. I’ve worked here for six years and have been a nurse for 23 years. I started my career in oncology, then worked in home health and as a critical care nurse. Oncology nursing has always been my love because of the long relationships you develop with patients. It’s wonderful when they survive and an honor to help people through the process of dying. I am so proud to work here. There’s never been a day when I woke up and didn’t want to come in. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

Tell us about working in the Infusion Center.
Every day is different and it’s very fast paced. While we see a lot of oncology patients here for chemotherapy, we also infuse patients who have conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, renal diseases and those who’ve had kidney transplants. I love that we’re part of the National Marrow Donor Program. The donors are here in a bed for six to eight hours, so I have a chance to get to know these wonderful people donating their stem cells for someone they don’t even know.

Please tell us about a memorable sacred encounter you’ve had here.
We had a transplant patient who was dying and needed an intravenous device. The one he got made him sad. It prevented him from swimming with his grandchildren, which he had always done. I listened to him and was able to advocate for him by involving a social worker and talking to his doctor. They were able to change the device so he could swim. He came back and thanked me and told me how important that was to him.

Jennifer Campos, R.N., Infusion Center

Jennifer, please tell us about your background and role at St. Joseph Hospital.
I’ve been with the Health System for 13 years, starting with a medical group at St. Jude Medical Center. I came to St. Joseph Hospital eight years ago, starting as a Receptionist at the Cancer Center, then working as a Patient Accounts Coordinator. I spent three years in Quality Management, became an RN and worked nights for a year on 3 South. I began working at the Infusion Center on June 30. I wouldn’t have gone to nursing school if not for some very special nurses that I had worked with at the Cancer Center.

In the Infusion Center there are seven of us, giving chemo, doing blood transfusions, infusions and quick injections. It’s not just oncology patients we see. We usually have the same patients coming back regularly so it’s like family. We have a lot of fun. The patients tell us they like to come and see us.

The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment is an inspiring place and I love working there. I like having everything in one area, so the patients can go through their entire disease process, from first diagnosis to their last treatment in this one, gorgeous place. Even though I live all the way out in Moreno Valley I plan to work here for a long time.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Putting myself where the patient is – making him or her feel how I would want to feel if I were a patient here. I try to give each of my patients my undivided attention and make the person feel like they’re my only patient. If their first experience is good and they need to come back, they won’t be scared.

Can you recall a recent Sacred Encounter?
Just yesterday we had the first emergency situation in the new Center. It was very intense. In our old building we were right next to the ER and we could just call a code. Now we don’t have a MET (Medical Emergency Team). We had a patient in the Infusion Center have an allergic reaction to her platelets 10 minutes into an hour long infusion. She only spoke Mandarin. Her daughter alerted us that something was wrong. She was jerking like she was having a seizure, and she’d lost consciousness.

We activated the First Response Team and everyone was fabulous. Not being in an acute care setting where emergencies happen everyday, the response was unbelievable. We called 911, and the three nurses at the Infusion Center, the Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Oncology Nurse, a Nurse Practitioner from a doctor’s office and our Unit Secretary all responded. An ambulance and paramedics were here within 10 minutes and took her to the ER. The daughter was pretty shaken up. As she was walking out the door the three nurses from the Infusion center were standing in a row. One after the other, we each gave her a hug on her way out.

Afterward we debriefed to see if there was anything we could have done better, and came up with some ideas, but the bottom line was everyone felt the response went as it should. If I ever had a code, this is where I’d want to be.

Terri Cimmarrusti, RN, Observation Unit

Terri, please tell us about your background.
I started at St. Joseph Hospital in 1986 as a nurses’ aide when the Home Health department first opened and I was in nursing school. After graduating I went to 3 North to what we now call the Medical/Pulmonary Unit. I was there for most of my career, except for a year in Critical Care. Last year I finally made a change and transferred to the Observation Unit when it opened. It’s been a great change for me. It’s a different pace with a different clientele, and I’m learning new things. I work part time, and I also help out with our Community Education events, which I’ve enjoyed. In the hospital, people come in with complications from problems such as diabetes or hypertension; at community outreach events I meet people who didn’t realize they have these conditions. We’re only with them a short time, but what we say matters. I’ve been at employer events where we come back the next year and see some of these same people. They sometimes tell me about seeing a doctor for their conditions and making lifestyle changes, and I know I’ve had a positive impact in their lives.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s making an impact on somebody else’s life that you end up feeling as well. You don’t set out to – it just happens.

Can you share a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
There have been so many, but I think of all of the cystic fibrosis patients I cared for over the years. They’re the ones who kept me on the unit. Years ago they were in all the time so I’d get to know them and they became like family. One even became my daughter’s babysitter. Losing my first cystic fibrosis patient was the hardest. I didn’t think I could continue on, but my brother encouraged me, saying, “Can you imagine what it would be like for them if they had a grouchy old nurse? They’re lucky to have you.” Life expectancy is better for this disease now than it used to be when I took care of them. These were generally young adults, and I enjoyed the time I had with them and tried to make their hospital stay as pleasant as possible.

Heidi Daniel, R.N., Surgical Program Manager

Heidi, please share some of your background with us.
I’ve been with St. Joseph Hospital since 1990 and feel blessed to work within this organization. There is never a dull moment with a nursing career. During my first 10 years here I worked as a staff nurse on the Med/Surg unit known as 2 North. I made life-long friendships, honed in on my nursing care management skills, and during that time had three children. When the youngest started kindergarten, I decided to make a work change and took an ICU internship. I promptly became pregnant with my fourth child. As working nights in ICU took a toll on life with a new baby, I moved to the Recovery Room and worked there for another two years. I will always value those years of nursing experience. In 2003, a friend of mine in the Recovery Room, who also had four children, encouraged me to apply for the Bariatric Surgery Program Coordinator position. That was probably the most rewarding career change of all. Working with bariatric patients is so gratifying. You develop such a bond with your patients and their families. I have stayed in contact with many of the patients for five years, or more! I get to be a supportive part of their positive changes, and see firsthand the effects of surgical weight loss on their lives.

Being obese affects every part of the body and every aspect of the patient’s life, from relations and pastimes to job performance and advancement. It’s really sad. Not only can these individuals not participate in life fully, they deal with a lot of prejudice. An important part of my job is to make staff aware of our prejudices and educate everyone on how to be sensitive to morbidly obese patients.

I love a challenge, so I’m also now helping to build a Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery program at SJO. The growing trend toward more minimally invasive procedures is very beneficial for patients in terms of faster recoveries, fewer side effects, less scarring and lower costs. More than ever consumers are looking for cutting edge technology, so we’re working to repackage and get the word out about our capabilities. We perform numerous robotics and minimally invasive procedures in specialties such as prostate, OB/Gyn, orthopedics, bariatrics, neurosurgery, colorectal and urology, and there are more on the horizon. We have so much to offer patients here with our awesome surgeons, outstanding technology, wonderful nursing staff and commitment to sacred encounters.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
An experience you have with someone that touches your heart, opens your eyes and changes your life. For example, when I see bariatric patients and all the barriers they are overcoming, it really encourages me. Also, when I encourage and educate my patients, it’s so neat to see them reach out to encourage other patients in the same manner. It’s like “paying it forward.”

Please tell us about a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had at St. Joseph Hospital.
At a recent bariatric support group meeting, a woman stood up and told another support group member, Louis, how he had motivated her and made a difference in her life. Louis was so thrilled. He always said if he could make a different in just one person’s life, his weight loss journey would be worthwhile for him, and he achieved that! I love to see that process of one person helping another - extending a hand to help one another. That is how I feel too, that if I can make a positive impact with just one person- it’s all worth while!

Susan Dragoo, R.N.C.-OB, DNP, Advanced Practice Nurse, Women’s Services

Sue, what’s your background with St. Joseph Hospital?
I’ve been here about a year in my current role, but have a 10-year history with St. Joseph Hospital. Prior to coming here I developed and was the nurse practitioner for Methodist Hospital Women’s Clinic in Duarte. In addition, I was a clinical nurse instructor with California State University Long Beach until I became restless. We’d do onsite clinical rotations here through Labor & Delivery, Newborn Nursery and Post Partum, so I got to know the staff. I’ve always known that St. Joseph Hospital stood for quality of care and would have come to work at here sooner, if not for my commute from Monrovia.

As an advanced practice nurse my role is similar to that of a clinical nurse specialist, meaning I’m involved with nursing and clinical practice issues that arise, education of existing staff and new hires, and patients who have special needs. A lot of research is required. It’s a great job. Being the first person in this position I’ve been encouraged to define it and make it my own. I’ve learned a huge amount this year, after 30 years in women’s health.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
You’ve been given the privilege to be at the right place at the right time to make a change in someone’s life. It’s also a two-way street, and that person makes a different in your life as well.

Can you share a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had at St. Joseph Hospital?
In Women’s Services we’re blessed to have daily Sacred Encounters delivering babies. One of our high-risk moms recently came in to deliver. The dad hadn’t been home for a month – he was working in the oil fields in Iraq. Within 12 hours of his arrival home the baby was born. The ICU and Women’s Services really came together to enable the family to bond during what we call the “golden hour.” Even though mom had to go to the ICU, we were able to tuck that baby onto mommy’s chest during the first two hours of recovery. The parents didn’t request or expect this, but they were pleasantly surprised and very appreciative that we made that Sacred Encounter happen.

Bringing mom and baby together skin-to-skin is an important focus for a “Baby Friendly” hospital. Working toward that internationally recognized designation over the past four or five years has been a stringent process. It has changed the culture of our department. Each nurse had to complete 18 hours of education on important aspects of care such as early attachment bonding and breastfeeding. I’m a latecomer; Carol Suchy has done an awesome job as the driving force behind the “Baby Friendly” initiative with fabulous support from the leadership team. There are only 79 hospitals in the nation and no others in Orange County who have achieved Baby Friendly status. It distinguishes St. Joseph Hospital’s obstetrical services as best practice. It shows we’re doing the very best we can for our patients, from start to finish. Who wouldn’t want to go to a hospital like that?

Connie Engel, R.N.C., Labor and Delivery

Connie, please tell us about your background.
I’ve been a nurse for 22 years, and have been at St. Joseph Hospital about 10 years. I was a prepared childbirth educator for 12 years prior to nursing school. I was enthralled with birthing and thought I wanted to be a midwife. During nursing school I worked at a freestanding birth center in La Mirada for a physician who also did home deliveries.

I worked in a lot of places through registry and traveling, and St. Joseph Hospital is by far the best. Everyone talks about their values; St. Joseph Hospital lives them. Even when changes happen, the administration considers the impact on us and tries to make it as easy on us as possible.

As a Labor and Delivery nurse I have a great job. I participate in a miracle every day. I never get tired of it. Birth can still move me to tears. At the same time, I don’t think people realize how challenging and technical it can be. You might have a normal labor patient, and at other times you have to become a circulating or scrub nurse in the OR, a PACU nurse or a nurse using critical care skills.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
I think every encounter with another human being is a sacred encounter. The Buddhist greeting “Namaste” expresses it well. It means, “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells; the light in me recognizes, appreciates and honors the light in you. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.” This is how I try to live my life.

Can you tell us about a recent, memorable Sacred Encounter?
I had a patient who had planned to give birth at home with a midwife. She had been pushing at home for about three hours and the baby wasn’t coming. She came to us in a lot of pain, exhausted, discouraged and anxious. She had to have an immediate cesarean section. My coworkers came together and pitched in. It was like a well orchestrated symphony – a masterpiece! The outcome was beautiful – both mom and baby were fine. I was really proud of my coworkers, who could have had a lot of judgment for the couple’s choice to deliver at home, but there was none of that. Despite difficult circumstances the couple felt respected and cared for, and were very appreciative. The midwives felt honored and supported and left the encounter feeling good.

What came out of that was a suggestion to have a luncheon with area midwives, to help develop a bridge for good back–up; to meet them in a non-stressful environment, and to get to know each other as human beings and caregivers on the same team, wanting the same outcomes. We’re looking forward to planning that. It will be one sacred encounter leading to another.

Kam Fansler-Rice, R.N.C., BSN, Labor and Delivery

Kam, what is your career background?
I’ve been an L&D nurse going on 10 years and have been at St. Joseph Hospital for 15 years this month. I started on 4 West/ 4 East (Telemetry) as a Nurse's Aide while going to Long Beach State. I transferred to the Cath Lab, then to Kidney Transplant, then back to the Cath Lab before Cheryl Welp hired me in L&D, where I’ve always wanted to work. I don’t regret any of my positions here; the critical care experience was invaluable.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Sacred Encounters involve my coworkers on a daily basis, which transcends to patients. We try to make the most of everybody’s experience – even the rare difficult ones – as we bring new life into the world. I always try to be real with my patients and not use medical jargon. I want them to think of me as a friend. I would want that, and it’s my way of paying it forward. I stay in contact with some of my patients on Facebook. It’s fun for them and me to see the child I helped bring into the world having good times with the family.

Can you tell us about a Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
Recently I walked in to start my shift and was told a family had insisted on me as her nurse. I didn’t recognize the name. When I went into the room I instantly knew who they were. I had taken care of the family during their first delivery, which had been really tumultuous with lots of ups and downs. The mother had come very close to having a C-section but in my heart I knew she could deliver vaginally and have the birth experience they had wanted. I kept telling the doctor to give her a chance, and worked with the patient’s mom, a labor and delivery nurse from up north, on the birth plan.

Four years later, that family knew my name and remembered that I have two kids, which is something I usually tell my patients. They were so happy and grateful that I remembered them, too, and that she wasn’t just some casual delivery. They sent me a beautiful Christmas card and thank you note that I have on my refrigerator at home.

Stacey Fischer, R.N., BSN, OCN, Nurse Navigator, Breast Program

Stacey, please tell us about your background.
I came to St. Joseph eight years ago from St. Jude Medical Center’s inpatient oncology unit to be a staff nurse in the Infusion Center. I have worked for the St. Joseph Health for a total of 11 years. For the past five years I was the Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator. In July, I became a Nurse Navigator for the Breast Program. I accepted this position to make a change and to ‘be the glue’ for breast cancer patients. There is a great need to help these women, with over 400 new breast cancer patients a year at St. Joseph Hospital. I have also been working part-time as the Magnet Coordinator, keeping the organization updated and the Magnetic energy moving as we prepare for redesignation in January 2011.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s that special ‘ahh’ moment that touches you. We have a lot of them here.

Can you give us an example of a Sacred Encounter you’ve experienced?
When my son was born in 2003 he was diagnosed with a life threatening condition which required him to have a liver transplant. I was unable to work during this time. My former boss, Maureen Mikuleky, put out an email sharing my story and gave employees the option to donate time. The hospital staff responded by donating 500 hours of their PTO so I could stay with him. At the time I didn’t even know some of the people who donated. He had his liver transplant in 2004 and is doing very well. I am looking forward to him starting kindergarten this fall.

Justin Foxman, L.V.N., Emergency Department

Please tell us how you came to work at St. Joseph Hospital.
I’ve been a paramedic for eight years, an LVN for two years and in a few months I’ll complete my RN courses and take the state boards. I’m planning to become a certified flight registered nurse (CFRN). While I was taking some pre-requisite classes at Santa Ana College I met a nurse and a tech from St. Joseph Hospital who told me about an opening here and recommended I check it out. I started working here in 2007. I like everything about my job….my great coworkers with so many personalities, the excitement and quick decision making, and seeing patients come here in distress and leave feeling better.

What does a Sacred Encounter mean to you, and can you recall one that was memorable?
For me it’s when both the patient and healer or employee are touched. Two days ago we had a five-month old boy come in with severe respiratory distress. At one point he stopped breathing. We were able to get the family involved by showing them what was happening, what would happen next, what equipment we were using and the outcome that could be expected. Before they left the family came to us and said thanked us for saving his life. Not a lot of people say that, and we really appreciated it.

The St. Joseph Hospital Emergency department nominated Justin for the Richard L. Hoech Award for EMS advocacy, exceptional performance and excellence in functioning as a life saver in the community. Here is the story, reported by ED Manager Marianne Golden, of how he assisted the EMS in saving a life:

In Mid October of 2007, Justin Foxman LVN/Paramedic left St Joseph Emergency Department on his way to school. While waiting for a red light on Main Street to turn onto the 5 freeway, Justin noticed a stalled big rig in the center lane from the freeway overpass. As the light turned green, Justin began to merge onto the freeway. Suddenly a fast moving truck, hit the bid rig and the big rid slammed into the back of the stalled truck. The impact happened at about 70 M.P.H. causing an instant explosion, debris shot into oncoming traffic, and both sides of the freeway came to an immediate stop. Due to the fire and both trucks in flames, Justin and another off duty Santa Ana P.D. officer were the first responders to the scene. They had the only access to where the accident occurred. Justin had parked downwind and got out of his car to check for injuries. He found a man trapped in the cab of his big rig truck banging on the window, with fully engulfed flames inside the cab of his truck. Justin knew the driver had 2-3 min to get out or he would burn to death. After brief discussion with the CHP officer he said, “It was too dangerous and nothing could be done, unfortunately.”

The officer also said, “Santa Ana Fire Department could not gain access, due to the traffic and would be delayed by 20 min.” Justin couldn’t stand there and watch someone die. He said, “I’m a licensed paramedic and nurse, and it was time to work.” Justin climbed up the driver side of the big rig and with much force was able to break the window with his fist. Smoke and flames were billowing out very heavy. He noticed the truck driver legs were trapped and pinned beneath the engine block. Without hesitation, Justin grabbed the driver under his arms and pulled him out of the truck window, falling on top of him. Justin proceeded to drag the injured truck driver approximately 200 feet down the freeway to safety. Within seconds of removing the truck driver from the burning cab the entire truck exploded. There was an off duty firefighter who arrived at the scène. With his emergency medical equipment they both cut off the burning clothes from the injured truck driver. They found third degree burns to over 60 % of his body and the lower extremities, which were badly damaged. Justin drenched the burned victim in moist burn-dressings, stabilized his airway, performed a head to toe assessment, and started and I.V. Within 10 minutes Justin reported off to Santa Ana Fire Department. The burned patient level of conscientious became altered due to shock. He was soon transported to U.C. I Medical Center and later treated in the burn unit.

Anna Gaal, R.N., BSN, Med/Surg Nurse

Anna, what was your path to St. Joseph Hospital?
In 2007 I came here from a small, private nursing school in Ohio. A friend of mine working as a nurse at Mission Hospital encouraged me to come out to Southern California, so I did and applied there and at St. Joseph Hospital. Our Med/Surg Unit is a really good place to start – it’s fast paced and keeps you on your toes. Southern California in general is pretty fast paced compared to Ohio, and the weather here is great, most of the time.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s the way we treat each other – not just patients, but our coworkers too. Sacred Encounters are one way the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph carries on, reminding us to treat with compassion, and to look at the whole person.

Can you share a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had here?
There was a gentleman in his 80s who was a patient here a couple of weeks ago. He was very sick, but even though he was miserable he tried not to show it. Every time I came in his room he was holding his Rosary and praying and often had his Bible open. He didn’t ask for help much, but was very grateful for his care. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his will to get better, his family and my family. He inspired me as someone who was very wise, very spiritual and strong. People my age tend to be much more “wimpy” because we haven’t had to face the hardships that his generation has.

Dominique Gibb, RN, Orthopedic Unit

Domi, what is your career history?<
When I graduated from college 14 years ago, no one was hiring, so for my first two years as a nurse I was taking care of patients in their homes, and then worked at Lake Forest Convalescent Hospital. After a few months there I was given the opportunity of a lifetime, working at St. Joseph Hospital on the Transitional Care Unit. When it closed 11 years ago, I transferred to Orthopedics. I love my floor. My peers are happy and compassionate people. It's a very warm floor, where we enjoy good relationships with our peers, bosses and the doctors. What's not to love?

In 2006 after finding blood in my urine, I was found to have a tumor on my kidney and had surgery to remove it. Surviving cancer was a positive experience because I gained a new appreciation for life. I have a different outlook now and believe in living life to the fullest. Patients sometimes ask me why I'm so happy and I tell them about my experience and my belief that every day is a gift.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
On every day I come in to work my goal is to touch at least one person's life - a patient, visitor or coworker - and make a difference for them. I really enjoy getting Thanks for Caring notes in my mailbox because they remind me that I have a purpose here and I've served it.

Can you tell us about memorable Sacred Encounters you've had here?
There was one lady who was extremely afraid of being in the hospital, and she found comfort in having me care for her. She's been back for multiple visits and always asks for me. Also, I can recall a couple of times on the Orthopedic Unit when we've saved lives, such as when we've discovered a blood clot and acted quickly.

Diana Gilbert, R.N., CPAN, Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

Diana, please share with us your history with St. Joseph Hospital.
Five years ago, after 18 years in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CHOC, I came to St. Joseph Hospital, wanting to expand my expertise but stay in a critical care area. I chose to work in PACU. I still get to care for children, whom I love, and I have learned it is just as much an honor to care for adults.

I am so incredibly proud of the excellent care and compassion we give our patients at St. Joseph Hospital. I wouldn’t work anywhere else. We have earned our Magnet status because of the leadership of Katie Skelton. Her open door and open communication style, her creation and encouragement of unit-based committees and the Nursing Advisory Council has empowered her nursing staff to be agents of change for our patients. Every RN can bring forth ideas for improving patient care and their ideas will be heard.

The Magnet process encourages nurses to improve their skills. I recently received my certification as a Peri Anesthesia nurse to join seven other certified nurses in our unit. I’m a preceptor for new nurses in PACU. I chaired our unit based council for a year, and served on both the UBC and the Nursing Advisory Council for three years. My favorite job in the PACU is to precept our nurses. I love their enthusiasm and I want to help them become great St. Joe nurses.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
For me a Sacred Encounter is something special shared between a healthcare professional and a patient - a shared thought or feeling, or physical or emotional care. It’s an interaction that helps to heal.

I’ve taken the values and initiatives that the Sisters have taught and use them internationally through Operation Smile. It’s a volunteer organization with surgical teams going to developing nations to perform cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries. Since 2004 I’ve used my vacation time for trips to eastern China, western China, Perú, Venezuela and, this past March, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A cleft lip repair takes only about 45 minutes and a cleft palate repair an hour and a half, and it changes a child’s entire life. If we can help them before they’re five or six years old they may be able to speak without an impediment. Our team can correct deformities that can keep these children from marrying, having relationships or getting a job. We work 14 hours days, performing 30 to 40 surgeries a day for three to five days. In 2007 Operation Smile celebrated its 25th anniversary by having 42 mission groups going to 25 countries at the same time, performing surgeries for 5,000 children in one week! I learned about the organization while at CHOC from Dr. Sana Al-Jundi.

Families from remote areas who have no other recourse come for help from Operation Smile. Through interpreters we also teach the country’s surgeons and nurses and leave them with surgical supplies. With the children, language isn’t necessary. They understand your smile, your touch and your body language. These people are no different than we are, just less fortunate, and I feel honored to be in a position to help them. On one of the trips to China I met an OR nurse (Sharon Soloveoff, RNFA) who worked at a hospital in Los Angeles County.. I told her how great our Surgical Services department is and now she works here. She recently went on an Operation Smile mission to Madagascar.

I think volunteering also sets a good example for your children to follow. My 21-year-old daughter is in charge of philanthropy for her college sorority. They raised $13,000 for a pediatric cancer charity. My 24-year-old daughter will take her vacation this summer working as a counselor at a Girl Scout camp, teaching kids about horses and horseback riding.

If you have a gift or ability, think about sharing it – there is so much need in the world. I’m also a sponsor for a landmine organization in Cambodia. The country has 45 to 60 landmine accidents a month and 40,000 landmine amputees. When one of the nurses and I were walking through the town of Siem Reap we came across a rehab center where people had handmade splints and homemade legs. That country has had so much tragedy but the people are very resilient. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for them.

As far as Sacred Encounters with our patients, in the PACU the patients usually have no recollection of their recovery room experience. Although they don’t consciously remember, they will know a feeling of comfort and security from when you gave them a warm blanket, take their pain away or comfort them when they were scared.

Steve Granda, R.N., BA, Renal Dialysis

Steve, what’s your background?
I’ve worked at St. Joseph Hospital since 1985 and since then have cared for hundreds of patients, first as a per diem nurse for chronic renal patients and for about the past 10 years in acute dialysis. I wanted to work here because St. Joseph Hospital had a reputation as the best dialysis treatment center in Orange County.

When I was a kid I never dreamed I’d be a nurse, but as it turns out nursing is the best job I ever had. After high school I went to trade school and became an automobile mechanic. It was the Vietnam era and I was drafted. At first I was going to be fixing jeeps and trucks but at the last minute they sent me to clerk school, then medical records school. I served with a medical battalion in Texas; fortunately I was never activated to Vietnam. When I got out of the service I went to work in a garage and back to school, getting my degree in sociology. I couldn’t get a job in that field so I became an insurance adjuster, but didn’t like being in an office. I took an aptitude test which showed I should be a forensic investigator or a nurse. I decided to take an anatomy/physiology course, aced it and applied for nursing school at Golden West College. I was 40 years old when I graduated with my nursing degree. While I was in school I had a job driving a van, bringing patients back and forth to dialysis for Whittier Presbyterian Hospital. I was asked if I’d like to train as a technician, and when I finished nursing school and got my license they offered to double my salary if I stayed so I did. They had a good training program for dialysis and I worked there about five years. That’s where I met my wife, Elsie, who is also a dialysis nurse. It was so romantic, having our eyes meet across the blood pump. Ten months ago she began working at St. Joseph Hospital (Pediatric Outpatient Dialysis) and she’s really happy here, too. There are so many people who have worked here for 30 or 35 years. There are folks that were born here, worked here all there life and died here. Even though I’ve been here almost 25 years sometimes I still feel like the new kid on the block.

Please tell us about your sacred encounters at St. Joseph Hospital.
A few days ago I dialyzed a patient who is now 38 years old, who I had first dialyzed when he was 14. In between he’d had transplants and some other medical problems, but he is an amazing survivor. We were reminiscing about the other kids who were patients with him, and his mom and dad gave me hugs.

Several months ago there was a lady who’d had open heart surgery. She was about my age but very frail and couldn’t talk because she was intubated. I suggested, “How about listening to some music from when we were in school.” Her feet were tapping and she was smiling around the tube as we listed to doo-wop music from the late ‘50s. It made her happy and she was able to forget her troubles for a little while, and that made me happy. Nurses are very caring but can be very busy. In my specialty I’m focused on one thing. Sometimes I don’t have to say anything – just holding their hand can be a sacred encounter.

Beverly Hatch, R.N., BC, Department Manager, Inpatient Behavioral Health Services

Beverly, what is your background?
Originally I’m from Iowa. I went to nursing school in Omaha, Nebraska, and did a year of clinical training at the world renowned Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric care, research and education center in Topeka, Kansas. When I moved to Santa Barbara, California, I was single and had nursing school friends stationed nearby at Vandenberg Air Force Base. That’s where I met my husband. This Father’s Day we’re celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.

In 1986 I started at St. Joseph Hospital as a staff nurse in Behavioral Health Services (BHS), when my children were 2, 6 and 10. I knew (BHS Clinical Coordinator) Christine Pierce from my church and babysitting co-op, and she told me this was a good place to work. I primarily worked part time in the evening. In the mid-1990s I took a job as psych director in another facility, but remained here per diem for the next 16 years. When my current position became available two and a half years ago, I applied and got the job.

Just before coming here I had breast cancer, and I’m now a four-year survivor. It changed my thinking and made me realize I wanted to take my career to a healthier environment, where I could do what I love in a place with genuine concern for people. I haven’t regretted my decision. I work with a lot of people who I truly love. Although I’d get more done with my door closed, patients frequently come in my office to talk, so I get to meet all kinds of people.

Behavioral health is something a lot of people are fearful about, but I believe it’s really just supporting people with communication. I’ve always been fascinated by how people work and interact with each other. What we do here is to give our patients the opportunity to have a healing experience. When someone has a particular problem, we’re able to give them a short period of time to relax, identify their problem(s) and get help with those issues, using coping mechanisms and/or medications. They have an opportunity to feel important and valued and to get over their current crisis. These are often very challenging patients, but that’s the work we’ve chosen. We wouldn’t blame someone who comes to us with a heart attack, even though they may smoke or didn’t make healthy lifestyle choices. It’s not up to us to make value judgments, but rather to help them where they are.

Having the values of our organization makes it easy to know the recipe for being successful here. I’m proud to be part of an organization that supports mental health because it’s important to the whole person, rather than providing services based on Medicare funding. In the community there aren’t a lot of mental health resources and services for good, solid intervention. What we do is an important part of carrying on the Sisters’ mission, by taking care of people who are down on their luck and not functioning well. They’re God’s children too, and they need our care, love and concern.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
For me, a Sacred Encounter is looking somebody in the eye, being there 100 percent and being sincere and congruent, with your actions and words matching. It’s interactions in which I’m using who I am to help another person feel good about his or herself and to feel valued.

Can you tell us about a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
One of our staff members was very ill and was in another hospital. A few weeks ago on a Saturday I went to see him. It was a long drive, and I had some trepidation about visiting because he was so ill and I had some fear of the unknown. When I went to his room he was sleeping. I rustled around in my purse to find materials to write him a note and he woke up. He had a really big smile and said, “Hi Boss.” It meant a lot to him that I took the time to visit. I thought I’d just pop in and out, but we chatted for about a half hour. It was a special time I will always remember. I felt like I made a difference that afternoon. Caring for others, even in a small way, can be really big to another person, and to ourselves in the long run. I got way more out of that encounter than he did.

Janine Herrera, R.N., Orthopedic Unit

Janine, what is your background?
I’ve worked at St. Joseph Hospital for almost 30 years. Prior to coming to California, where my husband was stationed in the Marine Corps, I attended nursing school and worked in a Catholic hospital in Ohio for five years. Both of my parents were physical therapists so I suppose I had a feel for orthopedics. My entire career has been on an Ortho unit.

When I came to California in 1979 there was a severe nursing shortage. I interviewed at a lot of hospitals and they all offered me jobs. When I came here to interview it was a different atmosphere. The nurses had a good rapport with the doctors, and everyone made me feel at ease. You could say that was my first Sacred Encounter.

I’ve stayed because I’ve liked the unit and the people I work with. Even though many of them have changed over time, the tenor of the place stays the same. I feel really lucky to have found a place I like, and to work somewhere that has a sense of family. Nurses on our floor rarely leave. If they do it’s to go to another unit at St. Joseph Hospital or because they’ve moved out of the area. I worked per diem at Hoag a few years back to earn extra money, but at that time most everyone there was like me – white Anglo Saxons. Here, I’ve really enjoyed the cultural diversity, working with nurses from Thailand, Peru, El Salvador, and Mexico.

How do you define Sacred Encounters?
Everyone has their own definition. On our unit, we care for people who have had pain and immobility that has lessened their quality of life. For the most part they’re getting back to a better level of functioning, so it’s a happy place – kind of like the Mother/Baby Unit. There’s a feeling that we’re all in this together, of let’s help each other. There’s a sense of renewal in what I do and of life.

Can you recall a recent Sacred Encounter?
Every day there’s at least one. I want to impart to my patients the joy in what I do. A recent knee surgery patient made me realize my impact on patient care. He said to me, “I can’t believe an RN is giving me a bath.” I told him I enjoyed giving baths when I could and helping patients feel refreshed and clean. They remind me of my student days when our first contact with a patient would be a bath. It’s a very simple thing to do but it makes you feel close to patients. He said, “It must be nice to do something you really love. Not many people have that.” I also enjoy teaching as an RN. We have pre-op classes for patients, so most of our scheduled surgical patients know what to expect and I’m reinforcing what they know. Patients who come in through the ER are the most stressed out because they don’t know what’s going to happen in the hospital. The time I spend teaching really helps them.

Audrey Junor, RN, CCRN, Cardiac Cath Lab and Hybrid Operating Room

Audrey, what is your career background?
After high school I joined the Army for seven years. I had my son (now 20), then went to nursing school. I eventually worked in Long Beach Memorial's adult and pediatric ICUs and St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach in their ER. I still work there Friday nights as house supervisor. Just prior to coming here I was a rotor flight (Life Flight) nurse for five years. That was a hard job. After I was in one of two helicopters leaving Loma Linda Medical Center and the second helicopter had a fatal crash, I decided it was time to move on, and came to St. Joseph Hospital. That was six years ago. I started here in ICU. I've helped with lots of projects and managed 2 South for a while before coming to the Cath Lab (as clinical coordinator).

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Interactions with others involving kindness, integrity and respect.

Can you recall a Sacred Encounter you've had here?
Just the other day a patient came in the ER Code Stemi (with a heart attack) and was rushed to the Cath Lab. He coded for over an hour and a half. He died, we brought him back, died, and we brought him back again. We needed an anesthesiologist to place a central line so the patient could more quickly receive the code medications. Without the line, the medications would have to be given one at a time, at a much slower rate. (Anesthesiologist) Dr. Tino Chen was in the hallway and we asked him to come in the room, which he did, even though he had his own patients waiting for him. He stayed to help for an hour and a half. Patients like that don't usually make it, but the next day this gentleman was waking up and following commands. It really was a miracle case, made possible because of good CPR and the willingness of Dr. Chen and all parties to go the extra mile.

Ann Marie Keefer-Lynch, R.N., MSN, FNP-BC, Family Nurse Practitioner
La Amistad de Jose Family Health Center

Ann Marie, what is your career background?
I’ve been at St. Joseph Hospital for 30 years. I started as a receptionist in Radiology while I was in nursing school. When I graduated from Santa Ana College I was their first nursing student to be valedictorian. While continuing to take classes and working on my bachelor’s degree at Cal State Fullerton, I went to work on the Med Surg Unit. Within three months I was the relief charge nurse on nights, which was very exciting for me. After about four years Education asked if I’d like to be in their department, and I became a nurse educator. During that time I went back to UCLA for my master’s degree. After about eight years in Education I became the Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Emergency Department and Critical Care, staying there for eight or nine years. I went back to school again, this time to earn my post-master’s certificate to practice as Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Then about nine years ago La Amistad opened and I went there.

I’ve absolutely loved every single part of my career. I never tired of being here - I would just try something different. Sometimes that terrified me but I knew when to ask for help so that patients weren’t in danger. I think of St. Joseph Hospital like a mother’s womb where you are always being nurtured. This place is very pro-education. They allowed me to flex my schedule and provided tuition reimbursement.

La Amistad is the heart of the mission of the Sisters. There is so much need and our patients are so grateful. The people who come to us most likely are poor and would not have had any care at all, yet they are so well cared for here. On an average day I see 20 to 25 patients. Most of them have multi-system issues. We see a lot of diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. We provide a lot of women’s services such as PAP smears and mammograms. Their lives are often so stressful. They’re likely to be living in high crime areas and taking three buses to get to us.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
That’s where the provider and patient, family member or another member of the team all meet in the same place. It’s doing the very best you can to meet needs and expectations in a Christian framework.

Please share a Sacred Encounter you’ve had here.
We don’t see a lot of kids because CHOC is here, so this little guy stands out for me. He was about nine years old and on his way to being a juvenile delinquent – failing in school, hanging with the wrong kids and incorrigible with his single mom, whose other child was disabled. First I cleared him medically. Like boys tend to be he was terse, but I kept digging and learned he felt picked on as a Latino boy in a school with predominantly Vietnamese students. I discovered he likes basketball so for his summer vacation I connected him with the Boys and Girls Club near his home. He came back a different kid, with a big smile, in part because of basketball. I also spoke with the school principal and we have a good shot at getting him changed to another school. It’s been heartwarming to see the change after he was on such a dangerous path.

In another Sacred Encounter, a lady came to us who was about 300 pounds, with hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes and depression. She asked me about the lap band, and I told her it has worked on certain people. Usually MSI only covers emergent conditions, but we agreed to try and she was approved. Over the last eight months she’s lost 100 pounds. She’s nearly off her diabetic medications. It was a win for her, for MSI and healthcare.

Another lady would come with her husband to our vans that go to their neighborhood in Santa Ana. Both are diabetic and in their late 40s or early 50s. They would come faithfully with their Chihuahua. The wife is now on Medicare, so she is no longer eligible to be seen through our program. She sobbed when she had to leave the clinic because it’s like we’re family.

Julie Kemp, R.N., Outpatient Surgery Center

Julie, please tell us about your career.
I graduated from nursing school in 1955 and have worked all over the United States. I’ve mainly worked in the OR, but have also been in pre-op and the recovery room. Since 1980 I’ve been at St. Joseph Hospital. I work two to three days a week. Although I float throughout the OR I work predominantly with the eye cases. We do a lot of cataract, diabetes and glaucoma eye procedures. We have 10 ORs here and a huge staff. I love my job and absolutely love my coworkers. We have the best people here who have the right attitude and help each other.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
In the Surgery Center patients come first and we give them the best care we can. Our patients love us and we get all kinds of good feedback, which is so important to us. A lot of us are religious and we believe we are here doing God’s work.

As OR nurses we don’t have a lot of time with our patients like the nurses in Pre-op or the Recovery Room; however, what patients are most fearful of is the surgery itself. It’s important to visit them while they are in Pre-op, answer their questions and help them relax. They’re very grateful for the time we take with them to explain things.

Can you recall Sacred Encounters you’ve had?
Years ago at another hospital we had a stillborn in the OR and I baptized that baby. It was very traumatic for the mother and the staff. Afterwards she sent me a letter to thank me.

Some patients like us to pray with them. I’ll hold their hand and say a prayer. Sometimes a patient will say, “Thank God you are here for me.” That makes me cry. I’ve had patients in the laser lab kiss my hand and tell me, “Thank you for all you do.”

Jacqueline Kimani, R.N., Medical/Telemetry Unit

Jackie, please give us some of your history.
Nursing has always had a place in my heart. My educational experience started in Business School at California State University, Fullerton. After graduating with a Business Degree in Business Administration l felt that something was still missing in my life. I decided to pursue a career in Nursing and soon fell in love with the field. My first job in Nursing was as a Nurse’s Aide at Hoag Memorial Hospital. I enjoyed what I was doing so much that l decided to do more. I enrolled at Saddleback College and earned an Associate Degree in Nursing. A friend told me about St. Joseph Hospital and it sounded like a place l would like to work. In 2006, after graduating from Nursing School I applied for a position as a New Graduate Registered Nurse. My experience here has been rewarding since then, and St. Joseph’s seems like a good fit for me. The unit staff work together and support each other even in difficult and busy times.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Sacred Encounter is a unique experience you have with a patient. The experience touches you and connects you to the patient in a very unique way. It is very much like a foot print that stays imprinted in your memory that you will always remember.

Can you give us an example of a Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
A few weeks ago, I took care of a forty year old female patient. After reading an article in the St. Joseph’s newsletter she decided to participate in a lung screening that was being advertised. The screening test found a spec in her lung that resulted in a resection of part of her lung. The patient had no history of smoking or symptomatic of any disease. The patient had mixed feeling as expected and wanted to share them with someone she trusted. Her husband had just been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and her life felt overwhelming. She needed someone to talk to as well as listen. Through her story we bonded not as nurse and patient, but as two human beings who realized that life is precious.

Pamela Matten, Nurse Navigator, Thoracic Oncology Program

Pam, what is your background with St. Joseph Hospital?
I started my nursing career eight years ago at St. Joseph Hospital in Radiation Therapy, and for the past five and a half years I’ve been the Nurse Navigator for the Thoracic Oncology Program. I had been at home with our five children when my husband was stricken with cancer – multiple myeloma - in 1996. I went back to school and earned my B.S. in Nursing from Azusa Pacific University in my 40s. It is a miracle that today he is in remission. That’s how I ended up in oncology nursing, and I’ve never regretted it. I love it! It’s a very personal kind of nursing. People are facing the biggest crisis of their lives and possibly death. I’m there to walk with them. I count that a privilege and an honor.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s that moment when you know in your heart that God has orchestrated your encounter.

Can you tell us about a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had here?
Keith Dayton was a patient of mine for five years. He’d had three types of cancer – prostate, small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. A few weeks ago I took care of my patient one last time. I got to the ED right after Keith passed away. I asked the family to step out and I cleaned him up and took out his tubes. I talked to God, I talked to Keith, talked to God, and talked to Keith. It was a very loving encounter. The family came back in, and they were very thankful I was there.

I also gave a eulogy at his memorial service. I shared that he was somebody who people might have considered as unlucky since he’d had cancer three times. But Keith considered himself blessed to have beaten cancer as long as he did. He took unfortunate circumstances and turned them around. He started St. Joseph Hospital’s phone mentoring program for people diagnosed with cancer called “In Your Shoes,” which is continuing. Keith was well loved by many people here and an inspiration to us all.

Leda Monsees, Emergency Department

Leda, congratulations on celebrating 50 years of nursing! Please share about your nursing journey.
When I was 14 years old and growing up in a small town in Missouri I asked my dad, who was the mayor, for $1, which upset him because I’d just asked for $1 the day before that. He went to our town’s only physician, who had a clinic down the street from my father’s office, and asked him if he could put me to work and teach me the value of a dollar. So I began working there after school for 50 cents an hour, washing and powdering gloves, sterilizing syringes and sharpening needles, which were metal back then, when nothing was disposable. I had to pull medications to stock the doctor’s medical bag so he was ready to grab it and go when he got a call. I loved it!

After four years I went to the Kansas City School of Nursing, which back in those days was segregated with a separate dormitory for the black nursing students. Through our clinical rotations I gained lots of experience. On my first day my patient, a man who had lost half of his face to cancer, died. Back then were no ICUs; the critically ill patients were mixed in on the wards. You didn’t have the advantages of monitoring systems like we have today, so you had to really know your patient. I went on to the University of Missouri for a supplemental nursing program where I learned theory and studied public health.

By then I’d gotten married and my husband and I moved a lot for his job. Just prior to coming here we lived in Texas and I wanted to work for Baylor (Health Care System). At the time they didn’t have anything in critical care on days, so they trained me to work in their trauma center and ER. When we moved back to Southern California in the mid 1990s there was a lot of turmoil for hospitals. I knew that because of the Sisters and its reputation St. Joseph Hospital would remain sound with the best of care, so I applied here. At the time all they had in the ED was nights. (I thought I would eventually transfer to days, but I actually prefer to work nights now so that my husband and I can take care of our dogs and they don’t bother the neighbors.) I primarily do triage. As long as my health holds out I plan to keep going. My career has been easy. Nursing is all about people, and I enjoy people.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
They are interactions with people, like my first patient, who you never forget. It’s a bonding of two spirits that leaves you with treasured memories. Through my career and personal life I have Sacred Encounters every day.

Can you recall a memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had at St. Joseph Hospital?
When you see a patient in triage, those are times that don’t bring out the best in most people. You have to brace yourself for their anger when people are hurting and the ED is too busy to see them right away. We had one very special lady who came in quite ill with multiple issues, and she had to wait longer than we’d like. In spite of all her pain she had such a grateful spirit. She was so loving! She grabbed my hand and thanked me for her care. It shocked me, and it was so refreshing. We can all learn from her example. That’s where there’s joy in nursing – helping someone and it’s appreciated.

Shane O'Connor, 3rd Floor - Medical/Surgical Unit

Shane, please tell us about your career history.
I started out as an EMT and after doing a rotation in the ER decided that I wanted to broaden my horizons and become a nurse. My uncle used to work here in Physical Therapy and recommended me for a job as an aide in Physical Therapy. I did that for four years before becoming a night shift nurse on the general surgery floor eight months ago. It was an adjustment for my sleep/wake cycle, but I like working three 12-hour shifts a week. The people here make this place so amazing. I can depend on them, I enjoy working with them and I look forward to coming to work with them. This fall I’m planning to go back to school for my bachelor’s degree and eventually I’d like to get my master’s degree, but I’m still getting my feet wet and I’m happy where I am.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
They are why I wanted to become a nurse. When I’ve been able to touch someone through my work it makes me feel good. It’s so important to listen to patients, about their pain, issues in their life or how they’ll cope with their condition - regardless of whether or not you come up with a solution. I like it when I can instill in someone a sense of confidence.

Can you give an example of a memorable sacred encounter you’ve had here?
The other night I had a patient who’d had surgery for bladder cancer. He’s a young guy, and he’d just had a urostomy, with his prostate and bladder removed. I’d been told he was irritable and hard to deal with. His blood pressure was high, probably largely due to anxiety. I asked him what was going on and he began telling me about his pain, his inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement, and other problems he was having. I gave him some positives about what he had to look forward to, without any false encouragement. I sensed that he was feeling things were out of his control, so I tried helping him begin taking part in his care. For example, I would ask him if he’d like to get up now, and if he would like something for his nausea. Last night he wasn’t my patient but I stopped by to see him anyway. I was glad to hear him tell me that his pain was under control and he was having bowel movements. His blood pressure was lower too.

Mic Mic Pamao, R.N., Blood Donor Center

Tell us about your role with St. Joseph Hospital.
I started working here four years ago in Pediatric Dialysis, then transferred to the Blood Donor Center. Every day is different. We see about 20 patients each day, and I try to make every person’s experience a positive, holistic one. As a nurse I’ve always dealt with sick people, but here in the Blood Donor Center the donors/patients we see are healthy. People who come in to donate blood are very special, altruistic people.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
The Blood Donor Center is often the first encounter here for a patient who is scheduled for surgery. We are the face of St. Joseph Hospital, and do our best to make a good first impression. I explain processes to help ease their anxiety and give them more confidence going into surgery.

We observe each person very closely. I’m a donor too, so I can empathize with them. When we have a difficult patient I think of him or her as a challenge. If they are afraid of needles I can offer them a lidocaine (numbing) shot. If I’m working with first-time donors, I’ll make conversation to divert their attention. I’ve had patients who finish donating blood and say, “I didn’t even feel that!”

Jayne Ptacek, R.N., Clinical Nurse II, Maternal Fetal Testing

Jayne, please tell us about your role at St. Joseph Hospital.
I came to St. Joseph Hospital in 1980 as a labor & delivery nurse. In 1987 I came to work in this department. Before we moved to our current, beautiful offices in the Pavilion we were in the 1201 building. I always look forward to coming to work. We’re like a family here and I love the people I work with.

We monitor high-risk pregnancies, such as those with gestational diabetes, chronic hypertension, pregnancy induced hypertension, postdates (overdue moms), pre-term labor, patients with decreased fetal movement, or moms with previous stillborn babies.

A typical day is 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and during that time we see about 45 scheduled patients. They repeat every three or four days, so we really get to know them and their families. We’ve often seen patients who come back for three or more pregnancies. I really like the fact that in our department we get to know our patients and develop a rapport with them. I try to go see them after they deliver here and they tell me all about their delivery experiences. They like to come back here and show off their babies.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
On any given day, for that patient, making a difference in her life. It’s not uncommon for a younger expectant patient to have a parent die suddenly, and they come to us very worked up. We let them cry about the loss they’re experiencing and calm them down. They’re really thankful for that.

Sometimes patients confuse our office, which is 805, with 850, which is a cardiologist’s office. We recently had an elderly lady with a cane come in looking for her doctor’s office. I took her down to suite 850. The next week she came back in to tell us, “I wish I could be pregnant again just to come in your office. The nurses are so nice here.”

Linda Simon, RN, Vice President of Mission Integration

Linda, please tell us about your career background.
I have been at St. Joseph Hospital for more than 40 years - my entire working life. I came here in high school to volunteer and work part time in what is now called Central Processing, and continued to work there while I went to nursing school. After graduating I worked as a general medical nurse for a short time, and then was given the opportunity to be a supervisor in Central Processing. From there I became Director of Admitting, then Executive Director of Support Services, then Executive Director of Community Services. I have been in my present position as Vice President of Mission Integration for 12 years.

How would you define a Sacred Encounter?
It's when two people have interacted and both went away feeling good about whatever transpired. Often it is the small things, such as helping a visitor find his or her way, stopping to talk with family in the waiting area, or listening to a coworker who has a problem. It's taking the time to make that person feel special. I see it everyday and have for many years.

Can you tell us about a special Sacred Encounter you've experienced?
When my dad was hospitalized here, my brother and I were called to his bedside in the middle of the night. My brother didn't know where to go, but the security guard on duty showed extra effort and concern by walking him up to the ICU and asking him if there was anything he could do.

Over the last three years I lost both of my parents, who were very special to me and a major part of my life. The support and caring I received from my colleagues and those who report to me reminded me of what a special place this is. In very subtle, respectful and non-intrusive ways they let me know they were there for me. I drew a lot of comfort from that.

Carol Suchy, RN, BSN, IBCLC, Manager of Outpatient Perinatal Services

Carol, what’s your career background?
I came to St. Joseph Hospital 24 years ago right after receiving my undergraduate degree from Loma Linda University. I started in the Special Care Nursery we had at that time, as a staff nurse for 12 years and then as a patient care coordinator. I also worked in Clinical Education as the Women’s Services’ educator. I’ve also done some moonlighting for Scripps Medical Center in maternal child home health. Since 1999 I’ve been in my current position. My training to receive an International Board Certification in Lactation Consulting (IBCLC) came from UC San Diego. At present I’m finishing my first semester at Cal State Fullerton to earn my MSN.

When you hear Sacred Encounters, what comes to mind?
It’s how we touch the lives of others in a positive way, and the feeling we get as professionals when we’ve been successful at meeting the needs of those seeking our help.

Please tell us about a Sacred Encounter that has touched you.
At the Mother Baby Assessment Center, our new moms normally come in a day or two after discharge, but one of our patients, a first-time mom, was discharged right before the Thanksgiving weekend. She was frightened that her baby wasn’t doing well and came to our Emergency Department over the weekend for help with breastfeeding. An ED nurse named Rachel brought her to the back right away, saying she didn’t want her and the baby exposed to sick people. She showed her how to breastfeed and sent her on her way. She and the dad came to the Mother Baby Assessment Center Monday morning without an appointment and we got them right in. She left glowing. All the way through, she received great care, and she left feeling very content. Our hospital is so exclusive in that new parents can get resources after they are discharged.

Robin Usher, R.N., Case Management

Robin, what’s your career background?
I came to the Case Management department 11 years ago after working for the St. Joseph Hospital IPA we had at that time. I used to come on site to see my patients and got to know people here. When that IPA closed (Executive Director of Case Management) Pat Brydges offered me a position here. I hope to stay here until I retire.

What does a Sacred Encounter mean to you?
It’s a significant moment or event between two or more people that bonds you together. It’s memorable and outside of the day-to-day routine.

Can you recount a Sacred Encounter you’ve had here?
A coworker and I had a Sacred Encounter this past summer that I feel really shows the impact we can have on each other. The Case Management department is here 24/7, including holidays and weekends. On the 4th of July there were three of us on duty. Holidays and weekends can be crazy, with everyone wanting to be discharged, so we are very busy. We start our day on the 4th floor of the Sister Francis Dunn Building, and then go to the hospital to see patients. We take lunch when we can get to it, which on that day was late in the afternoon.

My coworker and I happened to both be in our own offices eating lunch. I was on the phone calling a pharmacy to find a certain medication a patient needed before they could be sent home. I looked up and my coworker was standing in the doorway, pointing at her chest. At first I thought she was telling me she’d found the medication. When she pulled off her lab coat I realized she was choking. After doing the Heimlich procedure on her twice, a big piece of chicken came up. When it was over, we were both a bit shaken up and sat down for a few minutes, then both of us were so busy that we just went back to what we were doing. Everything had happened so fast and yet went so smoothly. Even though I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, that was the first time I ever performed the Heimlich on a person, rather than a mannequin.

The next day it dawned on my coworker that if I hadn’t been there, she could have died. There was no one else in our 4th floor offices that day. What were the odds of us both being here having lunch at the same time? It seemed to be a divine intervention. People really do need each other and I’m thankful I was there for her. It really bonded us. The next Monday she bought an angel and gave it to me with a beautiful note expressing how grateful she was. She wrote, “I guess you could say we had a Sacred Encounter."

Sonia Valdez, R.N., BSN, CVRN, Heart Failure Coordinator

Sonia, tell us about your role and history with St. Joseph Hospital.
I work for the Adult Congenital Heart Program, serving as a liaison for patients and doctors. I see patients as outpatient and inpatients and get to know the families. Our patients tend to have physical as well as psychological issues. They often have many fears related to dying. I’m able to offer them reassurance and help them work through their concerns. Ultimately I want to make sure they have the opportunity to live independent, productive lives.

I came here because I thought working in the Adult Congenital Heart Program would be very challenging and it is. Previously I worked in Health Education, ICU and Behavioral Health. In my current position I’m able to take what I learned in the other areas and apply them here. For example, I’m an educator for patients who have co-morbidities such as diabetes, and the assessment skills I picked up in Behavioral Health help to bring out the patient’s fears. For example, when I ask them what they are afraid of, they often tell me they don’t want to fall in love and die. I tell them I don’t know when I’m going to die, either. They’re likely to be afraid to have children, and I can suggest specialists for them to consult.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Every patient is an opportunity for a Sacred Encounter. It’s any time you can make an impact by giving a little hope or guidance, even if it’s just helping someone on the elevator with directions.

Can you share some memorable Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
We had a 19-year-old female come to us who needed surgery. She had been here once in the past and while she was on the unit had a psychotic breakdown. She and her mom were both afraid that might happen again. She asked me if I could stay with her throughout her surgery, and I promised I would. The surgery went well and the discharge was smooth. Her mother is a single mom, and in the Hispanic culture it’s often easier to go get a job than to stay in school, but I encouraged her to go back to school. I gave her resources for schools and financial aid, and have called her every month to see how she’s doing. I recently found out she is graduating this fall with her Social Services degree. It’s nice to think I might have had something to do with that.

Brent, a 22-year –old male patient, called me one day and said “I’m coming to see you.” He came to my office and showed me his chest. You could literally see his heart thumping. Because of his congenital condition and the multiple surgeries, he has a mesh barrier called a “homograft.” Brent was getting married and wanted to look good for his wedding, so he’d been lifting weights, causing it to rupture. I called Dr. (Farhouch) Berdjis, and walked Brent across the street to the hospital where the problem was repaired. Brent was married in September and sent me a wedding picture.

Just today I received a call from a 64-year-old female patient of ours. She was being seen by Dr. (James) Grimes through Lestonnac clinic and he diagnosed her with an atrial septal defect (ASD). She is uninsured. Dr. Berdjis did her consult for free, but she needed the ASD repaired so I got financial aid involved. St. Joseph Hospital covered the entire cath procedure to repair her ASD. The only reason why she agreed to get checked was because of her activity intolerance. She and her husband go around collecting cardboard boxes for recycling to pay their rent (one room they rent in a home) and to pay for their medicine. She wasn't able to help her husband collect as many boxes; therefore, their income was significantly lower. They are both diabetics. Thank God for my job and resources because I was able to get them both a meter and test strips for one year. I'm very blessed to work here and have the resources. This is why I love what I do. Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living I say, "I'm not just a nurse; I'm a St. Joseph nurse.”

Michelle Velarde-Laurie, R.N., BSN, Oncology Unit

Michelle, please tell us about your background.
Oncology nursing is a place I feel called to work because I can make a difference. The holistic care we give is so important. Medications and chemotherapy aren’t going to do much good for the patient if we haven’t listened to them and made them comfortable.

I had been working at UCI Medical Center as a bone marrow transplant/oncology nurse before I was referred here by a friend and started in 1999. The management here is great; the charge nurse is able to make sure you are supported, and that’s been important. I started on my BSN in 2000, my father passed away from lung cancer in 2001, and at the same time my sister was battling ovarian cancer. Four years later my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and my sister are both survivors. Four years ago I met the right man and got married and now have a three-year-old son.

After my dad died I started having migraines. An MRI revealed they were due to a stroke I’d had when I was young. My only deficit is left side peripheral vision. My doctors, Dr. (Neurologist Brian) Boyd and (Neurologist Mayank) Pathak, have been great and I’m able to live with the migraines.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
They are special moments with someone. For me it’s making a difference in someone’s life, and helping make them better during their stay here.

A couple years ago while taking a class on pain management through City of Hope I met a woman giving pajamas and blankets to patients. She said she was making patients feel comfortable on her unit. She inspired me to start “Patient Care Packages” at our hospital. Working with the Foundation I gather donations and buy pajamas, socks and tooth brushes so patients who have not brought their own things can have personal belongings. (RN) Kathy Majeski receives quilts and pillow cases, and I connected with a Japanese-based group in LA. that knits hats and blankets.

A woman in her 50s who was here with Stage IV pancreatic cancer left with a pink blanket and beanie. She was so touched that she insisted on making a donation that day. She said that pink is the favorite color of her granddaughter, who is 6 years old. The patient said she didn’t have much time left on this Earth, and she had been trying to think of something to give her granddaughter. She planned to give the blanket and beanie to her granddaughter, to “keep her warm when I’m gone.” It made me cry.

Amy Waunch, R.N., MSN, FNP, CEN, Advance Practice Nurse, Emergency Department

Amy, what’s your history with St. Joseph Hospital?
I came to the Emergency Department in 1999 as a new graduate RN. After completing my MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) and becoming an FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) I went to work in the outpatient setting of a private practice for some doctors on staff here. I was rounding on patients in the hospital and stayed on as per diem staff. I found I really missed the acute care setting, so when my current position was posted in 2004 I applied for it. I like that I’m able to function in many roles, providing direct patient care and serving as a mentor, educator and consultant for staff. I enjoy interacting with the medical staff, having a team approach to every patient and process in the ED, and working in a setting that provides acute care for a wide variety of patients.

You’ve been instrumental in initiating our soon-to-be accredited Stroke Program. What was your role?
About four years ago I attended a lecture at another hospital that sparked my interest in stroke care. I realized that we had the capabilities here to aggressively treat and improve the quality of life for patients suffering from acute stroke. With (CNO) Katie Skelton’s encouragement I made it my goal to develop an Acute Stroke Program at St. Joseph Hospital. I paired up with another Advance Practice Nurse (who is no longer here) and performed a gap analysis to identify steps needed to meet the objective of becoming a Stroke Center. We then presented this gap analysis along with the financial impact to members of the hospital’s executive management team (EMT), ultimately obtaining their approval to move forward with the development of our stroke program. I collected data, wrote order sets, policies and protocols in collaboration with other stakeholders, as well developed a Stroke Neuro Unit and a Hyper Acute Stroke Team. Once we were ready for a Stroke Program Coordinator I helped mentor Jodi Caggiano in that new role. Now I serve as the point person for stroke in the ER, just as there are stroke champions in the other departments.

Receiving our stroke accreditation is validation of all I’ve worked for. In the past few years we’ve been able to preserve brain function in more stroke patients due to increased collaboration between our neurologists, interventional radiologists and emergency physicians. Staff throughout the hospital can better recognize the signs of stroke and get the patient the time-sensitive care needed. We also have greater awareness by the Medical Staff and Nursing of the advanced treatment options such as intra-arterial thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy. Finally, the hospital has provided education to our community on the signs of stroke and the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It is seeing the person as a whole comprised of parts. In healthcare there is an obvious focus on treating a person’s physical parts. However, a sacred encounter occurs when in addition to treating the physical, we assess and treat an individual’s dignity and ability to function independently.

Can you recall a memorable Sacred Encounter?
I was walking down the first floor hallway recently when I heard a cry for help. An elderly visitor had fallen and was lying on her side on the floor. I knew she could have a problem with her heart that caused her to fall and/or a hip fracture or neck injury as a result of her fall. However, I could tell that more than being in pain she was embarrassed to be on the ground as people were crowding around. She wanted to get up and kept saying “I am so embarrassed.” I asked another employee to activate the ED Response Team so I would have adequate assistance in transporting her to the ED. As we waited for the team’s arrival I sat down beside her and at eye level and reassured her she had nothing to be embarrassed about. I even got her to laugh as I shared a past embarrassing moment of my own. An hour later I went back to see her. She was sitting up and was fine, but anxious to go and be with her husband, who had just had surgery. She thanked me profusely for making her feel so much better, and was very grateful that I understood how she felt.

Mary Welly, R.N., BC, BSN, Clinical Educator for Med/Surg

Mary, congratulations on your 40th anniversary with St. Joseph Hospital this year! Please tell us about your history.
I arrived here from Ohio in 1968 and came to work as a Med/Surg staff nurse, then did PM shift supervision. I’ve been in Clinical Education since 1978. In this position I enjoy the clinical aspects of working with the nursing staff and providing needed education. The staff looks to Clinical Education for support, and education is very valued by this hospital.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s those special moments, such as when a staff member expresses appreciation for what we’ve offered on the unit or in the classroom, or we’re able to respond to their needs.

Can you recall a memorable Sacred Encounter?
Recently one of our newer employees, a new graduate, inquired about opportunities for advanced education. We had a conversation about what she wanted to do and what schools were available. She later came back and indicated that the advice I gave her was very helpful and said she was enrolled for fall in school to pursue her BSN. I appreciated her coming back to share that with me.

Donna Zeh, L.V.N., Leave of Absence Coordinator

Donna, what is your history with St. Joseph Hospital?
I’ve worked here for 30 years. For 22 years I worked on Med/Surg as an LVN. In 2000 I was ready for a change and came to Employee Health. At that time they created my position of coordinating the leave of absence process. When I started with the hospital it was a much smaller family, and I do miss that. But the hospital does have the same caliber of people who are very kind and caring.

At any time there are 150 to 170 people on a leave of absence. It’s a fun job to be able to meet them and help out. It’s why I went into Nursing in the first place, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in it.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
Treating people the way you want to be treated.

Can you recall a memorable Sacred Encounter here?
I’d say I have sacred encounters with 99 percent of the people I work with on a daily basis. Recently I helped an employee through the LOA process who had to go to Thailand and care for her father who was ill. She brought me back a gift. I was really touched that she thought of me.

Julie Zhe, R.N., BSN, CGRN, Manager, Endoscopy Department / Pain Management Center

Julie, what is your career background?
In 1981 I applied to three area hospitals – St. Jude, Hoag and St. Joseph. After interviewing here I knew this was where I wanted to work. Even then the values and mission were the same as mine – patients come first - and people here were warm and welcoming. I started on Med/Surg, then moved to Respiratory, and after six years there transferred to what was then called the GI Lab and we now call the Endoscopy Center. We’re a family here that cares about each other as much as we care about our patients. No matter how hard the day is, you have the support you need.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
I experience Sacred Encounter here almost every day. To me, a Sacred Encounter is making a difference to someone in what you say or how you do something. You never know when you’re going to have an impact on someone. You can make a difference at any time during the day and you must always be open for those moments.

Can you give us an example of a Sacred Encounter you’ve had?
Two have stayed with me. A 24-year-old patient came to Endoscopy and was diagnosed with a late stage stomach cancer. I was there when the doctor gave her the test results and told her the only option was surgery. She was so scared, so devastated. Several weeks later she called to tell me how her surgery went and thanked me for being there. I didn’t feel like I’d done much, but she appreciated my just being present with her.

An elderly patient came to us and was having her first colonoscopy. After being admitted she said she’d forgotten her rosary at home. I went to my locker and found I had one in my purse. I gave it to her and could immediately see the change on her face from scared to happy and relieved. Two weeks after she came back and brought me an angel pin that she’d made. I still have that pin. It was just a small thing I did but it made a big difference to her.

Diana Zirschky, RN, BS, CNOR, Assistant Director, Surgery Center

Diana, what’s your career background?
I
’ve worked for St. Joseph Hospital since 1973. The first three years I was an LVN working on the Med/Surg floor and then on a step down ICU/CCU unit that was called Concentrated Care before going back to school for my RN degree. About that time the hospital opened the Outpatient Surgery Center, which was connected to the Main Operating Room when it began. A friend of mine worked in the new surgery center and encouraged me to transfer there, which I did in 1977. I continued as a staff nurse and relief charge nurse until I was asked to become a charge nurse in 1991. In 1992, two other charge nurses and I coordinated the move of the Outpatient Surgery Center to the newly built Pavilion, which was a major feat. We went from have a four-room suite to a 13-room suite.

In 2005 I became the Assistant Director of the Outpatient Surgery Center. Last year, after we lost our executive director, (the late) Joanne Stermer, I took on the additional role of overseeing Endoscopy. For my current position I went back to school for a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Management. Now I’m back in school to achieve my Bachelor’s in Nursing which I hope to complete by summer 2011.

Along with the daily operations, I’m responsible for ensuring that we maintain a safe environment for patients, staff and physicians; that physicians’ needs are met; and that patients are provided the best possible holistic and compassionate care, from the time they are scheduled through discharge. We perform more than 1,000 cases each month and 13,000 cases each year in the Outpatient Surgery Center. We’re very proud of the fact that, along with the Main OR, we have the third highest volume of surgical cases in the state of California. We’re also proud to maintain Avatar patient satisfaction scores in the 95th percentile.

What do Sacred Encounters mean to you?
It’s the way we treat each other and how we respond to any situation. It’s being open and welcoming a person into your world. When you have an interaction and walk away elated that you’ve been able to help someone, that’s a Sacred Encounter.

We try to make every experience a pleasant one. If an incident occurs or an issue arises, we still work to treat the staff and physicians involved with respect and compassion. We’ve been on our Holistic/ Compassionate Care journey before the Sacred Encounters initiative began, and I’ve seen a culture change. Our physicians continue to bring their patients to the Pavilion for the excellent care and service.

Can you share a memorable Sacred Encounter with us?
A few years ago one of our ENT physicians organized a program called “In Loving Hands” to provide free surgeries to needy pediatric patients. In 2008 and again in 2010 St. Joseph Hospital partnered with Access OC to help medically underserved adult patients. Giving the person who has been waiting for 10 years to have surgery but couldn’t afford it the intervention they needed and seeing gratitude on their face is such a great Sacred Encounter. The entire staff volunteered their time – the physicians, nursing staff, OR techs, interpreters, EVS staff and others. Knowing that some of our EVS staffers are working two jobs to make ends meet, and seeing them willingly and with smiles on their faces volunteering for four to eight hours on a Saturday, mopping the floors, was incredible to me. This was such a successful Sacred Encounter that we’re planning to have another Access OC day this spring.