Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Healing Journey


When Frank was discharged from a Southern California hospital, he was in need of intensive follow up care; he was also homeless.

For hundreds of Angelenos who are without a home, a hospitalization can cause a momentary interruption of homelessness, but the reality of receiving follow-up care and healing on the street is such that many homeless patients find their way back into the hospital.

National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Pathway Recuperative Care offers patients like Frank a safe and supported environment where they can continue their healing journey and, thanks to our continuum Bridge Housing program, find a permanent and stable home to return to upon discharge.

Patients spend an average of 7-10 days in recuperative care and this respite often triggers a desire in our guests to find a stable home; however, the process is often challenging and takes a team of individuals to connect the guest with the best possible permanent housing solution. Since our program began in 2010, we have helped more than 3,000 formerly homeless individuals heal and nearly half find their way home.

On #GivingTuesday, we are inviting the community to donate generously to NHF’s Pathways and Bridge Housing programs. Your donations will provide taxi vouchers for patients to be transported from the hospital to our facilities, personal hygiene supplies, clothing and basic furnishings to help a formerly homeless individual make a house into a home.

For more information about Pathway recuperative care, click here.
For more information on Bridge Housing, please click here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

This Giving Tuesday, Give Teens the Power to Choose


Ty’Keese wants to be a mom someday. Just not right now.
Robert used to think that pregnancy was not really his problem.

Both Ty’Keese and Robert have participated in National Health Foundation’s Be A Star programs that offer at-risk youth in South Los Angeles high schools the type of frank and open conversations about pregnancy, sexual health, goal setting and personal responsibility that have proven to reduce teen pregnancy. After all, Be A Star’s motto is Be A ‘Successful Teen Acting Responsibly’!

Ty’Keese is currently attending Humboldt State University working towards her degree in psychology and Robert is in his last year of high school and serves as a mentor to other young men in the program.

The harsh reality is only 40% of teen moms finish high school and fewer than 2% finish college by age 30*. High school dropouts face unemployment, poverty – and shorter lives. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a significant link between education and health. High school graduates live longer than high school dropouts. College graduates have even longer life spans, better access to health care, better dietary and health practices, and overall better health.

Be A Star has provided more than 700 students with the tools they needed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and set a clear path to graduation and beyond. For teens who are already parenting, the program encourages students to complete high school, set goals for college and prevent any additional unwanted pregnancies.

“It is amazing to watch the young men and women in the program really step into themselves. They come in somewhat shy and unsure and by the time they complete the program they are knowledgeable and empowered. You can see it in the way they speak. More importantly though, you can sense the hope they have for their futures,” shared Be A Star program manager, Jeanette Pena.

All of the donations received by National Health Foundation on #GivingTuesday will be used to expand and improve our health programs such as Be A STAR. We’re hoping to raise $8000 to increase the number of participants we can serve. Click here to connect with our donation page.

Find out more about the Be A Star Boys from Raymond Diaz, program coordinator: Click here



*The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, “Preventing Teen Pregnancy is Critical to School Completion,” Briefly… (Washington, D.C.) July 2010

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stories of Courage and Care: National Health Foundation’s Hospital Heroes 2016


The 2016 National Health Foundation Hospital Heroes Nominees
On Friday, November 4th, 2016, we celebrated the 11th annual Hospital Heroes Awards luncheon. Together with our Sponsors, Providence Health & Services, Southern California, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Cedars Sinai Hospital, Desert Valley Hospital and PomonaValley Hospital Medical Center, we heard the stories of 31 heroes who, through a deep commitment to care and community, have gone above and beyond the call of duty as nurses, doctors, support staff, health care administrators and volunteers. The task of choosing the three winners was challenging, to say the least.

 Mistress of Ceremonies NBC4LA's Beverly White, Shawn Aguirre,
Bryce Kulasxa and NHF CEO, Kelly Bruno

What makes Shawn Aguirre, nurse educator at St. Jude Medical Center a Hospital Hero? Perhaps Shawn's philosophy on nursing says it best: “On or off duty, I am a nurse. My purpose is to heal.” This past January, Shawn was on her way home when she saw two trucks, one hoisted on top of the other and legs sticking out from under one of the trucks. She immediately pulled over and ran across the street to see if she could help. A fourth-year medical student was also on the scene and the two devised a plan; he would go assess the young man’s legs and Shawn would climb under the truck to determine the rest of his injuries. “I noticed his name tag was still on his uniform, so I asked him if he knew his name,” Shawn said. “He was pale with shallow breathing. He kept asking over and over how he got under the truck and why his leg hurt so badly. He was clearly in shock.” For the next 30 minutes, Shawn lay under the truck to calm him while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. She did more than just assess his injuries clinically. She held his hand. She told him it would be OK. Bryce Kulasxa joined Shawn at the Hospital Heroes luncheon.

Beverly White, Tommy Covington and Kelly Bruno
Tommy Covington, RN, has worked the 7 pm – 7 am shift on the hematology-oncology floor of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since 1975.  His tireless work ethic is driven by his motto: “I try to live in the now and let the future develop around me. Many of my patients succumb to their diseases. When there’s a remission or a recovery, we rejoice in that.” Covington has remained in contact with many Children’s Hospital families. One family, whose child died 20 years ago, joins him on fishing trips. “We email, we talk, and we reminisce about their child we took care of and the love we shared,” he says.  “Love is the reason I do what I do.  It’s painful when you have a loss, but I love my job.”  Upon receiving his award, Tommy was visibly emotional, sharing that receiving this recognition, just months before his retirement, was a beautiful way to celebrate his 46 years of service.  

Beverly White, La Verna McMiller and Kelly Bruno
La Verna McMiller, RN, BSN, MSN, from Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, manages one of the most challenging patient care units in the state, the sub-acute care center at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro. Patients are transferred from hospitals throughout the state with gunshot wounds, terminal cancer, and other life threatening conditions. She urges her nurses to never give up on a patient and shares her motto, “Miracles do happen”. La Verna leads her team with a sense of optimism resulting in amazing outcomes for patients who were never expected to return home. “I’ve always liked working with these patients who I believe have the greatest potential of getting better. I don’t give up on them,” shares La Verna. La Verna manages this 125-bed specialty unit assuming both administrative and clinical oversight. La Verna is on call seven days a week and regularly comes in on weekends and evenings to meet with patient families and staff. She understands the value of recognition for her team and special events for her patients and makes sure that every birthday and holiday is a celebration. As we celebrated La Verna’s 27-year career, she vowed to become more educated so she could make a greater difference through her work.

For National Health Foundation, calling attention to the work of the health care community is one way in which we express our gratitude for the care and services of individuals, as well as for our partner hospitals. We could not do what we do without he formidable help of our partner hospitals and the heroes therein. As a nonprofit charitable organization, we also could not do what we do without the financial support of our partners and our community. The Hospital Heroes Awards luncheon is one way for organizations and individuals to celebrate the work of these heroes, while supporting NHF’s many important health initiatives in and around Los Angeles County.

For more information about National Health Foundation, please click here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hospital Hero Debbie Keasler is Connecting the Community to Life-Saving Skills




Since 2005, National Health Foundation (NHF) has reached out to the Southern California health care community to nominate Hospital Heroes. These are the individuals who, through their commitment to care, have left an indelible mark on their patients, coworkers and communities. Since then, more than 200 medical, technical, clinical, administrative and volunteer staff members have been celebrated. The 11th Annual Hospital Heroes Awards Luncheon will be held Friday, November 4th, 2016 and once again, we will shine the light on the incredible service of the health care community. At the event you will have the opportunity to meet heroes such as Debbie Keasler who shares life-saving skills with her community over and above directing the cardiac and stroke programs at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

It takes a special person to direct one of the most comprehensive, patient-centered and nationally recognized cardiac and stroke service programs in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Since 2001, Debbie Keasler, RN, BS, MS, has done all of this and more at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC). A former cardiac critical care nurse, she has seen both devastating and miraculous outcomes of patients with heart and brain conditions. Debbie is much more than a director and clinical nurse; she is frequently heralded as an “Unsung Hero” in the hospital. She is an avid patient advocate, a skilled and experienced mentor to employees, and a kind friend to many.

Debbie works selflessly to put her patients and their families first, including being available to answer questions and provide reassurance 24/7. No task is beneath her. She is a keen listener, advocate, and a quick learner who always adapts to her patient’s changing and challenging needs without question. Acts such as these have earned Debbie four awards from the hospital’s Guardian Angel Recognition Program, which gives grateful patients the opportunity to support the hospital while honoring a special health care provider.

Debbie is a champion for our community. She reaches out to neighborhoods weekly to educate people on how to identify symptoms and increased risks of heart disease and stroke and how they can live healthier lifestyles. She teaches Hands-Only CPR to local schools, senior homes, and in the community to provide others with tools that can save lives, and volunteers for the American Heart Association. Debbie’s involvement is a testament to her steadfast dedication to heart and vascular health. Debbie goes beyond the scope of her responsibilities to support our communities and ensure that her patients receive compassionate care. She’s a hero to all.

For National Health Foundation, recognizing Hospital Heroes is especially important because we are a nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the health of individuals and underserved communities by taking action on the social determinants of health and bridging gaps in the health care system and it is through our partnerships in the community that we are able to effect change. Hospital Hero luncheon proceeds will directly benefit National Health Foundation programs. For more information about National Health Foundation, please click here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Partners in Care: The Providence Hospitals Heroes



Over the course of the ten years since we at National Health Foundation (NHF) have been honoring the work of the Hospital Heroes among us, we have come to know many staff members from one of our partner hospital networks in Southern California: Providence Health & Services, Southern California. This year we have 6 nominees from 6 of the Providence hospitals. The Providence mission of compassionate care to the poor and vulnerable is something that each of their nominees espouses, however, as heroes, they have gone above and beyond their hospital’s mission to deliver heartfelt care that has resonated with patients, their families and the community.

The 11th Annual Hospital Heroes Awards Luncheon will be held this Friday, November 4th, 2016. Nominees will be recognized and winners of the Hospital Heroes will be announced. It will be an opportunity to meet these nominees:

Carol Yokoyama has dedicated her career, and some would say her life to the mission of caring for infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. She has been an employee here for 45 years. Difficult as it can be with this population of delicate patients, the dedication and emotional bond a NICU nurse shares with the family of a premature or sick infant is often the thread that holds them together during the exhausting, heartbreaking journey a family experiences when their child is born sick or too early. Pictures of past patients line the walls in the break room and remind every one of this important work NICU nurses do every day. Carol is one of these nurses. She is the kind of nurse who has comforted mothers as they held their dying infants and the kind of nurse who shares in the joy of an infant born four months early, finally going home.

Alexis Schoffstall began working earlier this year as a kitchen worker at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. The mother of a little toddler with autism, she was hired on a per diem basis for a new hospitality program -  delivering meals to patients, providing coffee and other small comforts to visitors and offering a little companionship. She proved a perfect fit, living the Providence core value of compassion as she spent time with her patients, listening, chatting and engaging. One of her patients was losing his battle with cancer at just 39, his grieving mother rarely leaving his bedside, growing frail as she kept vigil. When Alexis went home, she made sandwiches, cut up fruit and vegetables, bought candy, and came back later that day, her child in tow to drop the food off for the mother. She wanted to be anonymous. Co-workers told the woman a secret admirer had dropped off the food. Hospital Chief Executive Julie Sprengel learned of Alexis’s act of kindness and said she was so touched she was moved to tears. “During this time of sadness and confusion across our nation and the world, we can sometimes forget that every day there are people all around us participating in selfless acts of kindness for each other and often for complete strangers,” shared Sprengel in a note to the entire staff.

Mary Smidderks, from Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, is a hero because she inspires patients and their families as well as uplifts staff too! Fellow nurses have called her “a ray of sunshine to our oncology patients” and her Tea Lady service, “balm for the spirit”.  Mary created her own program putting her love of tea, linens, and fresh flowers to work. She met with 12 different hospital leaders to share her plans. Together they created a ‘tea service’ program for oncology and palliative care patients. “Teresa” was recovering from extensive surgery for ovarian cancer and was understandably withdrawn, depressed and in pain. Despite encouragement, she was reluctant to get out of bed and take a few steps. Mary busied herself with preparing the tea service while sharing her own story of how she learned to appreciate the beautiful moments in life. Teresa selected a crocheted blanket for her lap, an English Rose teacup, Chamomile tea and embroidered linen for her bedside table. A small vase of flowers from Mary’s garden completed the transformation.
As Teresa sipped tea, she smiled and became more animated, sharing some of the details of her difficult journey. Later that day, two women walking in the hallway; it was Teresa and her mother. They smiled and expressed gratitude for the kindness offered by Mary. It was not medical facts that helped Teresa, it was quite simply human interaction and the act of service with compassion provided by the Tea Lady that set Teresa on the road towards healing.

La Verna McMiller, from Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, manages one of the most challenging patient care units in the state, the sub-acute care center at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro. Patients are transferred from hospitals throughout the state with gunshot wounds, terminal cancer, and other life threatening conditions. She urges her nurses to never give up on a patient and shares her motto, “Miracles do happen”. La Verna leads her team with a sense of optimism resulting in amazing outcomes for patients who were never expected to return home. “I’ve always liked working with these patients who I believe have the greatest potential of getting better. I don’t give up on them,” shares La Verna. Over a 27-year tenure, La Verna has become known for the personal connection that she makes patients and their families and has an uncanny way of remembering details about them. She is a fierce guardian of safety especially around infection control, which is extremely important as most of her patients are ventilator, tracheostomy -dependent or in a vegetative state. La Verna single handedly manages this 125-bed specialty unit assuming both administrative and clinical oversight. La Verna is on call seven days a week and regularly comes in on weekends and evenings to meet with patient families and staff. She understands the value of recognition for her team and special events for her patients and makes sure that every birthday and holiday is a celebration.

Cara Armstrong, ED Clinical Nurse at Providence Tarzana Medical Center is a hero because she inspires her whole team. She often works with patients who are homeless and in need of more than just medical care. She takes her time with them, treating all with dignity, and helping them to shower or shave and get fresh clothing. Recently, she worked with an elderly couple in the ER on Christmas Day. The wife was admitted in a delicate and weakened state and her husband was weary but couldn’t bring himself to leave. Cara promised that his wife would not pass away alone. After a period of long deliberation, the husband was eased and left to rest with his family. As the wife’s condition continued to deteriorate, Cara stayed by her side and she did not die alone. Cara was able to share beautiful memories to help comfort the family. For Nurses Week, instead of receiving gifts, Cara motivated her department to give a scholarship to Lily, a beloved woman who helps clean rooms. She raised $3,000 toward a scholarship so Lily could attend classes to become a certified nurse’s assistant. Cara convinced doctors, clerks and others to contribute. Lily cried when she was surprised by Cara and the team with a scholarship check. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I feel happy for my family too. I know it’s going to be different — for my son, for my daughter, for my grandson, for my mom.”

Dr. Brian Madden of the Providence St. John’s Health Center truly exemplifies the description of a Hospital Hero. He has made a special and lasting contribution in his role as the Director of Palliative Care Services in the past year. He provides compassionate care to patients who are suffering and the family members who provide support under extremely difficult circumstances. Dr. Madden has expanded the necessary scope of services at our hospital to care for patients, especially in our Critical Care Units. He has educated other physicians on the role of palliative care in providing needed support for all patients, not just those with terminal illnesses. Brian is a tireless champion who helps patients and families work with caregivers to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. He has worked with physicians both in and out of the hospital to educate them on the benefits of palliative care for their patients and the making of difficult decisions. Dr. Madden has expanded the scope of palliative care to include the entire continuum of care, bringing his services into the outpatient arena, helping patients and families understand their life choices and decisions at times that may not be so emotionally stressful. Brian is a deeply caring, empathic, and pragmatic physician who is dedicated to the complete care of his patients. His easy-going style and warm personality have helped him broach the difficult subject of palliative care with physicians on our medical staff at all levels.

For National Health Foundation, recognizing Hospital Heroes is especially important because we are a nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the health of individuals and underserved communities by taking action on the social determinants of health and bridging gaps in the health care system and it is through our partnerships in the community that we are able to effect change. Hospital Hero luncheon proceeds will directly benefit National Health Foundation programs.

For more information about National Health Foundation, please click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hospital Heroes 2016: Care in Action


Since 2005, National Health Foundation has reached out to the Southern California health care community to nominate Hospital Heroes. These are individuals who, through their commitment to care, have left an indelible mark on their patients, coworkers, and communities. Since then, more than 200 medical, technical, clinical, administrative and volunteer staff members have been celebrated.

The 11th Annual Hospital Heroes Awards Luncheon will be held Friday, November 4th, 2016 and once again, we will shine the light on the incredible service of the health care community and award winners will be announced and recognized.

This year’s nominees include David Watkins, associate director of the Emergency Department (ED) of Cedars- Sinai Hospital, Brian Lugo, Emergency Preparedness Manager of Desert Valley Hospital and Tommy Covington, a hematology-oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

As ED nurse and leader at Cedars-Sinai, David Watkins is an inspiration to his peers, modeling outstanding patient- and family-centered care that has him consistently going the extra mile for the people he serves. For example, a recent patient needing medical attention refused to be admitted without first finding someone to care for his dog. David made a promise to the patient and personally walked and cared for the dog, in addition to ensuring the dog had a safe place to stay until the patient was treated and safely discharged several days later. 

It says “Emergency Preparedness Manager” on his badge but Brian Lugo is much more than that, not only to the Desert Valley Hospital family, but to the whole community. For over 12 years Brian has carved a place as an expert in all things emergency related.  With responsibilities at several hospitals in Southern California Brian must often place himself in the center of chaos such as the recent Pilot and Blue Cut Fires, and provide the staff with answers and solutions when his expertise is needed. In his role as Chaplain, as he has done from the kindness of his heart so many times, he has been that person who jumps in when a patient has passed away. He comforts the family and offers that much needed shoulder to lean on. 

Tommy Covington, RN, has worked the 7 pm – 7 am shift on the hematology-oncology floor of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since 1975. His tireless work ethic is driven by his motto: “I try to live in the now and let the future develop around me.” Many of his patients succumb to their diseases. “When there’s a remission or a recovery, we rejoice in that.” Covington has remained in contact with many Children’s Hospital families. One family, whose child died 20 years ago, joins him on fishing trips. “We email, we talk, and we reminisce about their child we took care of and the love we shared,” he says.  “Love is the reason I do what I do.  It’s painful when you have a loss, but I love my job.”

For National Health Foundation, recognizing Hospital Heroes is especially important not only because we partner with many hospitals throughout Southern California, but because we are a nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the health of individuals and underserved communities by taking action on the social determinants of health and bridging gaps in the health care system. Hospital Hero luncheon proceeds will directly benefit National Health Foundation programs.
For more information about National Health Foundation, please click here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Where Health and Care Meet: Frank’s Story


Frank, a 64-year-old Caucasian male, had a number of health issues that needed immediate attention, but he was facing an even larger issue than his failing health: he was homeless. For most of us who do have a place to call home, it is highly likely that we have a doctor, dentist and perhaps an urgent care clinic in our neighborhood that we feel we can turn to in the case of need. For the homeless, these basic needs fall to the wayside until an urgent health matter makes finding appropriate care a necessity and a challenge best tackled by a group of caring individuals.

When Frank came to National Health Foundation’s (NHF) PathwayRecuperative Care facility, he had been discharged from White MemorialHospital, a local partner hospital, and was in need of follow-up care. Denise, the LVN on Pathway’s staff immediately began the process of procuring a primary care physician for Frank at the Venice Family Clinic, knowing that Frank would need immediate support as well as prolonged follow-up for his chronic conditions once he was discharged from recuperative care. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Frank would need to see a specialist for surgery. This set in motion a flurry of activity that most individuals would not think are part of accessing urgent medical care: A specialist from KeckMedicine of USC agreed to perform surgery but insurance issues needed to be addressed. In the mean time, Pathway staff worked with White Memorial to cover an extended stay for Frank in recuperative care, knowing that his health would deteriorate if he needed to wait for surgery whilst living on the street. With an additional 4 months of support from White Memorial, the staff at Venice Family Clinic then advocated for the patient and procured both the insurance clearance needed as well as made sure that the surgery was scheduled in the shortest time possible. With Frank’s most urgent medical needs met, there was one thing left to do: find Frank a place to call home.

Frank was the beneficiary of NHF’s Bridge Housing, a program that allows patients to stay in recuperative care for recovery and for the time that is needed to find a permanent housing solution. In Frank’s case, NHF was able to procure permanent supportive housing for him and once his most pressing health needs are under control, he will transition home.

Frank’s case is not an isolated one. For every homeless individual there is a health story that is unfolding. Thanks to partnerships with area hospitals and clinics, NHF is able to provide dignified and holistic solutions to the complex care needs of  our homeless neighbors.