Five IU Health team members around the state have won the 2022 Lynda A. Merriman Award for Compassionate Care. Thanks to the generosity of IU Health Foundation donor Chuck Merriman, this award honors the kind of dedicated IU Health team members who eased his wife Lynda’s seven-month battle with cancer at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center and IU Health University Hospital. “The Lynda,” as the award is nicknamed, is a cash award and its winners are nominated by their peers at IU Health hospitals statewide.
The winners are:
Chloe Eck, RN, is a registered nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital — and although she’s only been in healthcare for three years, her nominator Erika Breivogel, RN, says that Chloe has already changed hundreds of lives. “She can make a patient's worst day better in a matter of seconds,” said Breivogel. Shortly after Eck was onboarded, COVID-19 plagued the Hoosier state. Breivogel said that Chloe took that challenge and turned it into an opportunity to grow — and grow she did. During the height of the pandemic, visitors were not allowed in the hospitals. Breivogel recalled watching Chloe hold the hands of countless dying patients — making sure they knew that they weren’t alone in their final hours. “I watched Chloe give one patient the last drink of his favorite coffee; I watched her show one patient pictures of his children during his last days; I watched her search for hours to find a specific Bible song a patient had requested to listen to when she passed; I watched her feed someone's sister a cupcake, because that was her dying wish, and no one from her family was there to do so. The list goes on and on,” said Breivogel. This act of compassion inspired Breivogel to nominate Eck for The Lynda. She said, “Being compassionate is not just telling someone that you care about them, it is showing them you care before they even have time to ask. Chloe gives all that her heart will allow without ever expecting anything in return.”
Heather Barber, RN, is a registered nurse at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital — and while her duties as a nurse keep her busy, she always has time to go above and beyond for her patients. Her nominator, secretary Shirley Lacefield, said, “Heather is constantly helping everyone. There are so many stories I could tell about her level of compassion and commitment to patient care.” One of those stories Lacefield shared was about a female patient who had come to the hospital with her hair in tangles. “Heather worked for three days to get her hair combed and styled,” Lacefield recalled. “The patient had the biggest smile on her face when Heather was done.” She also remembered several times when Barber chose to help her technicians bathe and clean her patients — even though it wasn’t her job. “Heather always wants to do everything she can for her patients. She is always an advocate for them and is always there to help and make them feel comfortable and safe.”
Erica Newkirk, CNS, RN, is a clinical nurse specialist and registered nurse at IU Health West Hospital. According to her nominator, Director of Quality and Safety Lauren Fogt, Newkirk goes to work every day with two goals in mind: to support her fellow nurses and to support her patients. “Erica is always on the go, always rounding,” said Fogt. “She’s always doing what she can to help.” In fact, when she is not encouraging her colleagues to further their education or to become certified in other areas of healthcare, Fogt said you will often find Newkirk sitting in an elderly patient’s room, just talking to them — that’s because Newkirk specializes in geriatric care. Her interest in caring for vulnerable patients has even led her to publish a study about delirium in the Journal of Med Surg Nursing, as well as to create a delirium cart for patients struggling with the disease. The cart includes coloring books, nail polish kits, books and crafts that help reorient patients by distracting them with a project. When reflecting on the compassion of Newkirk, Fogt said, “I’m proud to call her my friend, and I am so grateful that I get to work and partner with such a brilliant person every day.”
Giesla Potter, RD, is a registered dietitian at IU Health Morgan — and according to her nominator, occupational therapist Stacey Wilson, OT, Potter’s level of compassion and kindness are matched by her quest for excellence in patient care. That quest led her to create the Morgan Adult Diet and Exercise (MADE) Program — a grant-funded initiative that provides nutrition and lifestyle education to local community members. Since the program’s inception, she has led 16 cohorts through the eight-week program. One of her cohorts, Maurina Brown, RN, shared that she struggled with the walking portion of MADE because the trails the team used were often on uneven surfaces. Brown recalled sharing her concern with Potter — and shortly thereafter, Potter had secured a more even walking surface for Brown to use. “She went out of her way to make sure I had what I needed,” reflected Brown. Wilson adds, “Giesla is a one-of-a-kind, true gem. If she wasn't on staff already, I would choose her to be! She is outstanding!”
Emilee Veach, EMT, is an emergency medical technician at IU Health Arnett Hospital. According to her nominator, technician Lindsey Kumfer, Veach excels at patient care and critical thinking. “Emilee is always looking deep and trying to find the cause of problems,” Kumfer said. “Because of this, she always seeks to understand the whole patient and treat them with respect, dignity and kindness.” One story Kumfer shared about Veach was when she cared for an unresponsive patient who had been brought to the emergency department following a medication overdose. The staff completed their evaluation and noted that the patient was likely in his final hours. He was admitted to the hospital and, thanks to Veach, was moved to a quieter floor with his wife. “Emilee made sure he was positioned comfortably,” said Kumfer. “She even turned off his cardiac monitor in their room so that they could have peace and quiet during his last moments. After he passed, Veach took a piece of the patient’s cardiac rhythm strip and put it into a decorated vial to give to his wife. “The vial had ribbon on it that Emilee cut from her very own backpack,” Kumfer recalled. “She just wanted his wife to have a copy of her husband’s heartbeat … and if that’s not compassion, I don’t know what is.”