Health Care Heroes

March 23, 2011 No Comments   

When Crystal Steele decided to attend nursing school after pushing paper in a bank for several years, she knew it was because she wanted to make more of a difference with her life. She began working as a swan in the critical care unit at Saint Joseph Hospital to see if her hunch was correct and enrolled in Eastern KY University’s nursing school in 2004. Today, she’s a registered nurse who’s not only making a difference for her patients, but for the nurses on her unit as well.

Crystal is leading the effort to empower nurses to make decisions about their practice through a shared governance model that is being piloted in CCU. Shared governance insures that nurses have a voice in how care is delivered.

“I’m trying to improve the work environment and nursing satisfaction. When a nursing staff feels supported, patient care and professional development are advanced,” says Crystal.

The hope is that other units will adopt this model of nurses interacting with one another, presenting different perspectives about the delivery of care, expanding their awareness, broadening their knowledge base, and enhancing their ability to make decisions.

Crystal stresses the importance of mentoring young nurses. “I was fortunate to come into a group of experienced nurses who supported me and helped me grow. That is very important to a new graduate. Nurses who are experienced can teach you things you just don’t learn in school. It affected my decision to stay in CCU and at Saint Joseph Hospital.”

Aside from her involvement with shared governance, Crystal was recognized this year by Saint Joseph leadership for her great service excellence. A patient’s family commented on her “obvious commitment to her job and excellent nursing skills.” They said she was caring, sympathetic and understanding during their uncertain time and visited with them during her breaks and before she left the hospital each night.

Last December Crystal went on a medical mission trip to Madurai, India, with Drs. John Meek and Mark Dougherty and nurse practitioners Tonya Hatfield and Debra Dellay.

“We treated 200-300 patients per day with conditions like tuberculosis, HIV, worms, scabies, lice, and other diseases indigenous there. It was a different world. There is no means of sanitation,” says Crystal.

The experience sparked a desire in Crystal to further her education and obtain a masters degree to become a nurse practitioner, to make even a bigger difference.

“I was pretty green for this type of work,” she recalls. “I thought I would be more prepared when I arrived in India. It was definitely a learning experience. I just applied to school and I want to keep learning and growing in my profession.. If you improve your life, you will improve others’.”
Sandy Thacker, a pharmacy tech at Saint Joseph Martin, doesn’t just clock in and clock out everyday, she always looks for ways to give back and exemplify the mission of Saint Joseph Health System. She began a drop-off delivery service for the elderly and sick who cannot make it into the pharmacy to pick up their medications. She is the only delivery driver.

“There is a blind woman I deliver to and a patient that has a pacemaker. Mostly they are friends and neighbors or people I meet in the pharmacy. Every evening, I see which employees haven’t picked up their meds and give them a call to remind them,” says Thacker, who works in both the inpatient and outpatient pharmacy. “It’s just part of me.” 

Renee Chandler-Hall, director of pharmacy, says Sandy is a dependable, faithful and solid Associate. “I’ve been here for 14 years and she started shortly after I did. She gets to know patients on a first name, personal basis. She exemplifies RICE (Reverence, Integrity, Compassion, Excellence).”

Sandy is very involved with the hospital’s Mission Committee, delivering gifts and food to a homeless shelter in Pikeville every Christmas and volunteering for community service work in a women’s crisis center. Sandy is the first Associate to volunteer for whatever the hospital is sponsoring, such as Relay for Life, and always offers comfort and support to Associates who experience a loss or tragedy.

“I try to help as much as I can,” says Sandy. “It’s just the little things. I’m a people person and I like the family atmosphere of the hospital. I enjoy coming in and being with the people here.”

Sandy was one of the first recipients of the Waneta P. Newsome Award, named in honor of a volunteer who has worked for the hospital for over 50 years. She also serves on the hospital’s decontamination team for potential hazardous spills.

“My motto is, ‘What goes around comes around.’ I try to do good things so they will come back to me,” says Sandy.

Employee Stories, Saint Joseph Health System

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