Compassionate Care Makes All the Difference

Compassionate Caregiver Award recipients (l-r): Michael Schweer and Rena Sorensen, PhD, from the Behavior Safety Team; Ranona Booker, Environmental Services; and Barb Chini, MD, Pulmonary Inpatient Services.

On June 22, Cincinnati Children’s celebrated staff who had been nominated for the third annual Dr. Curtis Sheldon Compassionate Caregiver Awards. The awards are given as part of the Schwartz Center Rounds, which bring doctors, nurses and other caregivers together to discuss the social and emotional side of caring for patients and families.

The presentation took place in-person on the 13th floor of Location T and was also attended virtually via livestream broadcast.

Patty Manning, MD, Chief of Staff, noted that there were a record 57 individuals and teams nominated for the award. “That’s not surprising, given the year we’ve had,” she said. “Sometimes, compassion is the most important thing we give here. We don’t always have answers or cures. But each of you nominees have helped someone feel like they’re not alone at possibly the worst moment of their life, and you’ve done this on a regular basis. I can’t think of a better gift to give.”

Team Awards

For the first time, the Schwartz Center Steering Committee decided to separate the award to recognize both teams and individuals. In the team category, there were two finalists: Language Access Services and the Behavior Safety Team (BST), with the award going to the Behavior Safety Team.

The BST is called in to assess, plan and manage patients with behavioral difficulties. Since June 2020, they have responded to more than 133 behavioral response huddles and codes.

Said MaryKay Duncan, MSN, RN, Managers of Patient Services, “The BST enters a unit during a time of high stress, possibly high danger and often as a ‘last resort’ when family or staff have already utilized the skills and knowledge that have worked previously for a patient. Armed with protective equipment, extensive knowledge, and most of all, compassion for the patient, family and staff, they consistently de-escalate each and every situation to the best of their ability. Following these high-anxiety events, the BST performs a debrief with staff to ensure everyone is safe—both physically and emotionally, that a plan is in place and all questions have been answered. Using compassion when fear and anxiety feel like the ‘right’ path is a skill and quality that should be celebrated. We are very lucky to have this team support Cincinnati Children’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Said Michael Schweer, clinical program manager, Behavioral Safety Team, “I see compassion and collaboration daily from this team. I see it when they meet with a parent to learn more about the child’s behaviors. And somehow, they have this innate sense to know that this family may be hesitant to talk about their child’s behavior, because maybe, the family had a negative experience at another hospital, one that wasn’t so compassionate or collaborative when it came to supporting the behaviors. I see compassion when BST members seek to understand and learn rather than fear or blame. They truly are champions of a safer together culture.”

The BST was particularly helpful throughout the COVID pandemic.

“The BST COVID-testing team is a collaboration between BST, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and Child Life. Its purpose has been to create an accessible, safe and compassionate testing option for a vulnerable population with developmental disabilities and/or behavioral health needs who required COVID testing, either due to illness or for procedures,” explained Rena Sorensen, PhD, staff psychologist IV, Behavioral Medicine/Clinical Psychology. “This team has worked directly with families and individuals to test hundreds of children over the past year—many of them multiple times—to help them access care they would otherwise be denied by community agencies if not successfully tested. They called each family, listened to their needs, and designed and implemented care to fit that need. It was a quiet but powerful service that left some families crying with thankfulness as they tried to navigate the challenges COVID-19 presented in their lives.”

Added Angela Statile, MD, Med, associate program director, Pediatric Residency Training Program, “The Behavior Safety Team provides an invaluable resource and skill set to the patients of Cincinnati Children’s. Founded on the belief that patients should never be denied timely medical care due to perceived inability to cooperate with exams/procedures, they touch every area of the hospital, from ambulatory to emergency to peri-op to inpatient. They are called upon regularly and always say ‘yes,’ with several recent examples being the implementation of the Behavior Response Team on the medical units and providing support to patients with behavioral needs in COVID-19 vaccine clinics. They are an innovative and empathetic group of providers who exemplify the ideals of the Compassionate Caregiver Award.”

Individual Awards

Compassionate Caregiver Award finalists (l-r): Angela Hibberd, RN, Newborn Intensive Care Unit; Anna Yockey, RN, The Heart Institute; Connie Stitt, Child Life and Integrative Care; Julie Schummer, RN, A6 Central; Andy Schwieter, Language Access Services; and Karen Behm, Pastoral Care.

Seven nominees were named as finalists in the individual category:

  • Anna Yockey, RN II, The Heart Institute
  • Julie Schummer, RN II, A6 Central
  • Karen Behm, staff chaplain II, Pastoral Care
  • Connie Stitt, child life specialist II, Child Life and Integrative Care
  • Angela Hibberd, RN III, Newborn Intensive Care Unit
  • Barb Chini, MD, medical director, Pulmonary Inpatient Services
  • Ranona Booker, contractor, Environmental Services

The awardees were Chini and Booker.

Barb Chini, MD

Barb Chini, MD, is the medical director of Pulmonary Inpatient Services and co-medical director of A7 Central. One of her main areas of clinical expertise is in cystic fibrosis (CF). Said one of her nominators, Duncan Keegan, MD, pulmonary fellow, Pulmonary Medicine, “Barb has taught me the natural history of cystic fibrosis and the appropriate inpatient and outpatient management of disease progression and complications. More importantly, she has shown me, by her daily devotion to her patients, how to accompany patients and their families on the journey of their disease and their lives.”

All of Chini’s nominating letters talked about the role she played in helping a patient with CF, who had suffered from the disease for the past nine years. She helped him explore all his medical options, and when those were exhausted, she worked to make his remaining days as joy-filled as humanly possible.

Said Christopher Siracusa, MD, director, Cystic Fibrosis Center, “Dr. Chini continuously advocated for his care, including multiple referrals both locally and nationally for lung and liver transplants. Once it was decided that he was not a candidate, she worked tirelessly to help him and his family get the support they needed. This included convincing multiple providers and services in multiple states to ‘bend the rules’ to get him home on support that was nearly non-transportable, so he could enjoy time with his family.”

During the patient’s time at home, Chini met with the family weekly via Telehealth. She also coordinated with local home care companies, palliative care services and local hospitals for blood transfusions and lab work. When he became more acutely ill and had to be readmitted, Chini was at his bedside daily until he passed away.

Said Siracusa, “While this seemed like the end of the story, Barb didn’t stop there. She communicated the patient’s passing to the rest of the team, helped arrange emotional support for the inpatient and outpatient teams who were all affected by this wonderful patient, and ultimately, spoke at his memorial service.”

Stephanie Filigno, PhD, pediatric psychologist, Behavioral Medicine/Clinical Psychology, also nominated Chini for the award.

“She led this patient’s medical team with commitment and remarkable compassion for other care providers, as well as each person in his family. She is a role model for other care providers in the areas of commitment for quality of life and striving for best outcomes.”

Said Siracusa, “I have worked with Dr. Chini since I started as a first-year fellow. Watching her shepherd this patient and family through many highs and lows, including his final days and beyond, was truly inspiring for me to watch as her partner, and it reminded me that she continues to be my teacher.”

Ranona Booker

Ranona Booker, Environmental Services, is a newcomer to Cincinnati Children’s, having only been here a few months, but she’s already managed to make her mark.

Said Susan Bross, patient experience manager, Environmental Services, “Ranona has built a great rapport with families and the clinical staff with whom she works.”

In her nominating letter, Bross told the story of how Booker entered a patient’s room and changed his outcome. The patient was autistic, extremely anxious, and generally, having a bad day.

“The patient’s mother and nurse were trying to encourage him to let them do a procedure, which wasn’t going well,” said Bross. “Ranona came into the room like a burst of sunlight to empty the trash, but she did so much more than that. She was energetic and friendly and immediately started encouraging the patient.”

Thanks to her efforts, the patient relaxed enough to allow staff to do the procedure. The nurse and the patient’s mother felt Booker was incredible and a tremendous asset to the team.

Said Bross, “We have received countless ecards from staff members and shout-outs from families about Ranona, and this is one of the many stories that illustrate how she goes above and beyond. She knows everyone by name and makes it a point to talk to whomever she meets. She radiates energy and brings such positivity and joy to her job. Her gift is that she can turn just about anyone’s bad day into a good one.”

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