Angels within us give healthcare heroes a boost

“We’re gonna take care of one another and get through this.” Sweet treats, notes of support and caring gestures help nurses, physicians, techs and everyone on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

In a time of deep distress within our homes and hospitals, it’s easy to let fear rule our thoughts. But these are also the times when our better angels come out to provide comfort and care.

If the COVID-19 public health crisis has exposed weaknesses in some institutions of government, it has revealed the strength and spirit of our communities, our healthcare heroes and the nation as a whole.

That strength has played out within IU Health as team members rally to provide lifesaving medical care in the face of a virus that threatens our physical and mental well-being.

We want to share with you stories of good – displays of kindness and compassion extended to our teams on the front lines by patients, businesses and fellow team members. Following are just a few:

A giant sign installed with permission over the weekend greets team members and patients at IU Health West Hospital. The colorful sign, erected free as a gesture of appreciation by a Brownsburg yard sign owner, reads simply “Heroes Work Here.”

On a smaller scale, but no less important, Allison Foltz, a nurse in the emergency department at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, shared a note she received from a teenage cancer patient who came into the hospital recently suffering from fever.

“She talked about how she knew when she was starting to feel a fever coming on, that she would probably have to come to the hospital and wanted to do something to thank everyone in the ED for all of our hard work right now,” Foltz said.

“She made a card thanking the staff and was just overall very appreciative and uplifting. It was definitely a small act of kindness that made a big difference.”

The note reads in part: “Thank you all for doing what you do. I understand how stressful your jobs can be, especially right now. We appreciate how hard you all are working!”

Foltz said she planned to post that card in the ED for all to see as a reminder of the sometimes unspoken appreciation patients and their families have for hospital staff.

Meanwhile, over at IU Health Methodist Hospital, the ED team was treated to macarons from the Macaron Bar on Mass Ave. in Downtown Indianapolis last Wednesday.

Nurse practitioner Bridget Thorne tweeted out photos and a thank-you: “Huge thanks to Macaron Bar Indianapolis for donating macarons to our Methodist ED staff today! Thanks for supporting our frontline workers!

In another “sweet moment,” Riley PICU nurse Kelsi Lawless brought in decorated cake pops courtesy of local baker Stephanie Stucky.

“Small and big things. It all counts, so very much,” Lawless said, adding that Stucky donated the pops, decorated with images of scrubs, heroes, Riley, face masks, toilet paper … you get the idea.

“The Riley PICU wants to thank you for spreading sweetness during a time where it’s very much needed,” Lawless posted on Facebook, tagging Stucky. “Your kind heart and talent is much appreciated, and we will be sure to share the love with all the wonderful people here!”

Lawless finished her post with this quote adapted from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are (and with a 6-foot minimum distance).” 💚

Vern Farnum, director of spiritual care and chaplaincy for the IU Health Academic Healthcare Center, shared an interaction he witnessed last week that touched his heart.

“An ICU staff nurse went into her manager’s office and told her she was going down to buy her a cup of coffee. She said to the manager, ‘All I need to know is what type of coffee do you want.’ She then turned and said, ‘You’ve got our backs, and we have yours. We’re gonna take care of one another and get through this.’ When I looked back at the manager, her eyes were filled with tears.”

And this from Uptown Café in Indianapolis:

“Thank you to all the healthcare heroes who are tirelessly answering the call to help the sick … And a special thanks to the IU Health Methodist Hospital nurses pictured here. We appreciate you more than you know! Hope you enjoyed the cinnamon rolls baked especially for you.”

Kelly Sego, program manager for corporate communications at IU Health, shared a note received on St. Patrick’s Day, printed on notebook paper and decorated with a shamrock: “Dear Riley Staff, thank you for all you are doing during this stressful time.” It was signed simply, Lauren.

We’ll have more examples of people reaching out to support our healthcare heroes, including a tea party for Riley social workers, in the days ahead. For now, here’s one way Riley palliative care physician Adam Hill and his team are dealing with stress:

“We just had an end of the day ‘80s dance party in our office,” Dr. Hill tweeted last week. “That’s how you fight healthcare distress and provide team self-care.”

Nurse’s weight loss – Started with a warning sign and ended with a heavy decision

She was at a volleyball game when her face became flushed and her heart rate elevated. It wasn’t just the excitement of watching her daughter playing on the court. Paula Kramer was headed toward serious health issues.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Looking back Paula Kramer recalls clues that she was embarrassed by her weight. There’s the clue that when she went to visit her husband at his sports bar she asked him to meet her outside in the parking lot. There’s also the clue that she nervously stood in line when her family visited an amusement park – fearing that she couldn’t be safely secured into the ride. And there’s the clue that she may have opted for a nursing desk job rather than work at the bedside.

As she eyes a milestone birthday in June – turning 50 – Kramer no longer feels that anxiety. In fact, she says she is thankful she made a big decision in the past year. Under the care of IU Health Dr. Nicole Lee, she underwent gastric sleeve surgery. The procedure, also known as a “sleeve gastrectomy” reduces the size of the stomach by surgically removing about 80 percent of the stomach. Before surgery, patients spend up to six months in supervised weight loss that includes sessions with health professionals such a psychological testing and nutrition.

“I had tried other weight loss programs and diets. I’d lose 30 pounds and gain right back and then some,” said Kramer, who has been an IU Health nurse for six years. “Dr. Lee was amazing at explaining everything to me. She told me this wasn’t a magic fix; it’s a weight loss tool and it’s up to me how I use it. This just gave me the tools to succeed.”

Married to Larry Kramer and the mother to three children Sylvie, 16, Gabi, 18, and Ethan, 13, Kramer said she began gaining weight in her 20s. At her height she weighed 264 pounds. Now, eight months post surgery, she weighs 169 pounds.

The wake up call came when she was sitting in the bleachers at her daughter’s volleyball game.

“We were in tournament time and they were undefeated. I always get a little flushed at the games with all the excitement, but this time it was different,” said Kramer. She looked down at her Apple watch and her heart rate was 140. “I could feel my heart pounding and someone mentioned my face was red hot.” A few days later she checked her heart rate again after she had been sitting quietly at her desk and it was again 140.

“My mom was overweight. She passed away at the age of 70 and I knew the risk factors,” said Kramer. By the time she decided to have gastric sleeve surgery she was on medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol and a heart condition, was diagnosed as pre diabetic and had sleep apnea. “My kids are still young. I was scared,” said Kramer. “I just adore Dr. Lee. I was scared about my health and I was scared if I made this big decision. She understood my concerns and coached me through the whole thing.”

Surgery was July 24, 2019. Since then she has dropped from a size 22 to a size 12. “It’s weird to go to a normal store to shop for clothes. I haven’t done that since I was in my 20s,” said Kramer.

And now, she’s noticing the little things that she couldn’t do before – like crossing her legs, confidently climbing on that roller coaster, and taking in workouts with her daughters at the gym.

“I feel better. I feel healthier and I feel more confident,” said Kramer. “People who haven’t seen me for awhile take notice and that’s so encouraging.”

Process Established for Donations and New Suppliers

Indiana University Health Supply Chain team is dedicated to ensuring we are well-equipped to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This includes proactively investigating alternate sources of critical products, including accepting donations from private or public sources.

IU Health Supply Chain will be reviewing all offers, but are primarily accepting the following categories:

  • Respiratory Mask including industrial N95 and N99
  • Facial and Eye Protection
  • Hand Sanitizer with 70% alcohol content
  • General Personal Protective Apparel (PPE)
  • Disinfectants

Prospective suppliers and donors of these critical products will be asked to complete the appropriate form below, so we can best understand the opportunity that is being presented. Completion of all questions will allow IU Health to respond most efficiently and effectively. All email inquiries or completed forms should be submitted to COVID-19.Supplies@iuhealth.org.

Please expect a response to your completed form within two (2) business days.

  • Supplier Form
  • Donor Form

If the donor cannot submit via email, they can contact the Supply Chain Customer Service at 317.962.SERV (7378) with the information.

Please do not drop off supply donations at IU Health facilities. All offers of supplies and donations need to be submitted for evaluation first, using the form above. IU Health will reach out to coordinate obtaining the supplies after review of the form.

IU Health White Memorial has achieved the Pathway to Excellence Designation

Indiana University Health White Memorial joins a premier group of organizations that have received Pathway to Excellence® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

The Pathway designation is a global credential that highlights IU Health White Memorial’s commitment to creating a healthy work environment where nurses feel empowered and valued. IU Health White Memorial ‘s nurses are an integral part of the healthcare team, with a voice in policy and practice. Pathway nurses are engaged, resulting in higher job satisfaction, reduced turnover, improved safety and better patient outcomes.

As a Pathway organization, IU Health White Memorial leads the effort to enhance quality of care, patient and nursing safety and the future of healthcare delivery.

“We are proud to achieve this prestigious accreditation. Our staff has worked tirelessly to achieve this certification and it reflects our dedication to excellent patient care and services,” said Renea Smith, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer for IU Health White Memorial. “In awarding us Pathways to Excellence designation, ANNC has provided us with the opportunity to celebrate the exceptional care we provide to our patients and our commitment to the well-being of our community.”

IU Health Arnett NICU earns Level III accreditation

The Maternal and Child Health Division at the Indiana State Department of Health has granted a Three-Year accreditation to Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital as an Obstetrics Level of Care III and Neonatal Level of Care III. To achieve a Level III accreditation, IU Health Arnett must be equipped to care for complex maternal medical conditions and obstetric complications as well as infants requiring neonatal intensive care. In addition, they must be equipped and prepared to stabilize and transfer maternal and neonatal patients to the level of care appropriate to their medical condition.

Being granted a Level III care program, IU Health Arnett Hospital is committed to maintaining levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive, patient-centered, multidisciplinary care resulting in high-quality care for women and newborns. Patients receiving care at IU Health Arnett Hospital have access to onsite 24/7 care for obstetrics and neonatology services that include highly skilled obstetricians, midwives, neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, lactation consultants and skilled nursing and support staff.

“We are proud to achieve this prestigious accreditation. Our staff has worked tirelessly to achieve this certification,” said Abhay Singhal, MD, medical director and neonatologist with IU Health Arnett. “We are proud to work with the Indiana State Department of Health to ensure safe and high quality care is delivered to women and newborns”

Exit stage right: New role suits labor and delivery nurse

Kristen Young studied theater in college, but after marrying and having three kids, she traded the limelight for scrubs and the chance to help new moms.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Kristen Young used to think she wanted to have a career on the stage. She loved performing and public speaking, so she decided a degree in theater would be the perfect fit for her.

Young earned that degree, but her career took a sharp turn after college. She married her college love, Mitch, and within a few years, the couple had three children.

Those kids, now ages 10, 9 and 6, are her world. But five years ago, this pastor’s wife – Mitch leads a church on the Northeastside – wondered what her next act would be.

Her youngest was 1 when Young began thinking about going back to school to follow another passion – nursing. As the daughter of a nurse, she initially resisted the idea of following in her mom’s footsteps, but then embraced the challenge.

“I went back to school with the support of my husband, with three little ones at home and a mother-in-law who made dinner once a week so I could study, and I did it.”

After a year as a student nurse at IU Health University Hospital, she started as a labor and delivery nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital two years ago.

Already, she has collected two Daisy nominations for outstanding nursing and won a Daisy the first year she was on the job.

She knew then that she had found her calling.

“It was the best decision I’ve made and the hardest thing I’ve done ever,” she said. “But I love it. Every day I thank God that I get to come in and do my job.”

When she entered nursing school, she didn’t know for sure that she wanted to do labor and delivery, though she says she loved the nurses she had when she delivered her children.

“I was interested in the area, but I was also interested in NICU. Then I did a little bit of time in the operating room in nursing school and I really enjoyed that. I was also interested in working for Riley.”

All of her passions came together in a way she couldn’t have imagined.

When she interviewed at Methodist, she learned how as a labor and delivery nurse, she might get to be in the OR sometimes, she might do some triage and care for women who’ve had C-sections. When they told her the entire unit would soon be moving to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health when the Mother-Baby Unit opens, she knew this was the job for her.

“It’s everything that I kind of wanted that I didn’t realize could all be in one job.”

While she looks forward to the move to Riley, there is some anxiety about how patients will respond to the transition.

“We just want the best for our patients,” Young said. “But being under the Riley umbrella, there’s a lot of benefit. We deal with the sickest moms and the sickest babies in the state, and having the high-risk OB LifeLine allows us to take care of really sick patients, which means we have NICU babies frequently. The fact that we’ll be able to put mom and baby together (at Riley) is a blessing.”

Other than doing some spoken-word performances for Easter and Christmas pageants at her church, Young doesn’t get to indulge in her love of theater anymore, but her new role as a nurse suits her perfectly.

What COVID-19 means for your previously scheduled IU Health appointments

The health and safety of our patients has always been and continues to be our highest priority. We value the trust you have placed in us and our skilled physicians, nurses, and team members who provide you with the compassionate, safe and quality care you deserve. To ensure the health and safety of all our patients and team members during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we’re making adjustments to some of our outpatient appointments.

What will happen with upcoming appointments?

At this time, for the safety of our patients, some appointments may be rescheduled so that our care teams can be available to patients who have immediate needs. If you have an appointment that needs to be rescheduled an IU Health care team member will contact you with more information. For those appointments that cannot be postponed, options will include virtual visits through IU Health Virtual Visits, visits by phone, as well as in-person visits. If we do not contact you to reschedule, please plan to arrive for your appointment at your scheduled time.

Don’t have an appointment in the next few days?

To allow our care team to focus on patients with appointments in the next few days, we kindly ask that patients who do not have appointments within the next 3 days to wait until closer to their appointment day before contacting us. We realize that this can feel frustrating and we are working hard to support all of our patients.

If your appointment is within the next 3 days and you have questions or would like to confirm your appointment please call your doctor’s office. Our full-provider directory can be found here: iuhealth.org/find-providers.

What COVID-19 resources are available?

As COVID-19 continues to impact a growing number of people both here in our communities and abroad, we want you to know we are here for you. To help answer your questions, we’ve created an online resource center. There, you will find helpful information from our expert doctors and clinical team members about steps you can take to prevent the spread of the virus and how to get a free screening if you begin to experience symptoms.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and rest assured that IU Health is monitoring the evolving situation to provide the best possible care for you, your family and your community.

IU Health reschedules elective surgeries, moves many visits to virtual care

Indiana University Health continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To ensure the safety of team members and conserve resources necessary to meet emerging health needs, the following guidance was given to all IU Health providers and team members:

  • Effective immediately, IU Health is rescheduling elective, non-urgent surgeries and procedures at all hospitals and facilities.
  • Primary care and specialty follow-up visits will be conducted virtually or rescheduled.
  • Well-child visits for children 2-years and older will be conducted virtually or rescheduled.
  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy visits will be conducted virtually or rescheduled.
  • Health screenings and elective imaging will be rescheduled.

At this time, newborn and well-child visits for children younger than 2-years old will continue in order to complete the primary immunization series.

IU Health began informing team members and patients this morning. Work is also underway to train additional providers to use virtual visit technology.

This weekend, IU Health announced temporary visitor restrictions to protect patients and team members and prevent further spreading.

Feeling anxious? Here are 10 things you can do to calm your fears

Keep your “worry meter” in check during the coronavirus outbreak by taking care of yourself and others. “We know that one of the things that helps with anxiety and depression is when we find a way to be benevolent toward other people. It gets us outside of our own fears.”

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

The word pandemic strikes fear in many of us. And just like disease, fear is a contagion – quick to spread through families, communities and countries.

We’ve heard the recommendations from health professionals about proper hand hygiene and social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but how can we calm the fear and anxiety that many of us feel as the world shifts beneath our feet?

Vern Farnum, director of Spiritual Care & Chaplaincy for IU Health-Academic Healthcare Center, has some common-sense ideas for quieting our minds in the midst of this crisis.

“We have a tendency to awful-ize – to ramp things up in our minds,” he said.

That’s especially true during uncertain times when we don’t know what the next public announcement will bring.

“Do whatever you can to resist that because it usually leads to poor decision-making. Find any means of reassurance that is helpful,” Farnum said.

During times of crisis in the past, we often turned to sports, theater, concerts and other diversions to help us cope. Now those same options are not available to us. Even many houses of worship have closed out of an abundance of caution. How then can we keep our anxieties at bay?

A few ideas still within reach:

  1. Go for a walk. The fresh air and movement are good for us.
  2. Listen to music. “I’m a big rock and roll person, but sometimes I need to listen to some elevator music,” Farnum said.
  3. Practice yoga or another form of exercise at home.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Pray. The Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd
    Psalm are particularly powerful, Farnum said.
  6. Perhaps most important, stay connected with friends and family either by phone, video chat or social media. Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation, he said.
  7. Reach out to help others. Offer to go to the grocery for older people or for parents of young children, particularly those whose immune systems are compromised. “We know that one of the things that helps with anxiety and depression is when we find a way to be benevolent toward other people,” Farnum said. “It gives us purpose and meaning when we’re feeling anxious. It gets us outside of our own fears.”
  8. Maintain a normal meal and sleep schedule. Fatigue and a poor diet will negatively affect our mood.
  9. Stay informed, but don’t obsess over the news.
  10. If you get anxious, talk with someone who is a calming presence. Avoid feeding off of others’ anxieties.

Jennifer Touw, certified health and wellness coach with Healthy Results, says that while the “right amount” of worry can sharpen our focus and help us anticipate and prepare for danger, too much can make us feel anxious, out of control and even sick.

To keep our “worry meter” in check, she advises the following:

Put a name to your feelings. For example, “I’m having a moment of fear.” Follow that with a compassionate message for yourself such as “hang in there.”

Deep breathing can help trigger your relaxation response. It will give you a moment to pause and separate from anxious thoughts.

Move. If you are feeling keyed up, take a walk or go for a run.

Laugh. By all means, give yourself permission to take a break from the news and have some fun – play a game with your kids, watch a favorite TV show, laugh.

Ask for help. If you are an IU Health employee, consider connecting with a Healthy Results coach to work on stress management (317-963-WELL). If you are a patient or a family member, reach out to your physician.

These are uneasy times, but Farnum remains hopeful.

“The virus will eventually dissipate,” he said. “It will not disappear, but we will get back to a more normal routine. We will recover.”