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May 26, 2021

Merriman Award Honors Compassionate Team Members Statewide

Merriman Award Honors Compassionate Team Members Statewide

Five IU Health team members around the state have won the “Lynda,” the 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 IU Health Simon Cancer Center and University Hospital. The Lynda is a cash award, and its winners are nominated by their peers at IU Health hospitals statewide.

The winners are:

Hannah Todd, MSW

Hannah Todd, MSW, is a social worker in the hematology/oncology department at IU Health University Hospital, meaning she often deals with patients at the end of their lives and the families and friends who love them. Many people would avoid such situations, but Todd takes pride in easing this time for the people she serves, according to colleagues who nominated her for the “Lynda.”

Laura Jefferson, MSW, manager of social work, said of Todd, “Hannah is one of the most compassionate and caring people I know. She takes a special interest in palliative care and end of life, ensuring each patient has equal comfort, dignity and respect.”

Another of Todd’s nominators, Sarah Smillie, MSW, social worker, said one example of Todd demonstrating compassion was when she arranged a wedding for a terminally ill patient and his bride. Smillie added, “Numerous times, Hannah has adjusted her schedule to be present as support for family members after a patient’s death. Hannah does this with love and grace, even while grieving herself.”

Lindsay McClung, RN

Lindsay McClung (right), RN, is a radiology nurse at IU Health Bloomington Hospital—a complex job that can leave little room for personal interactions. McClung, however, finds ways to make connections, according to her nominator and colleague Alie Smith, RN.

Smith noted a patient they saw regularly who was depressed about his diagnosis and did not have family in his life. After he mentioned that he loved pie, McClung made sure a pie was waiting for him following his next procedure. “The patient was so touched,” said Smith. “He said it was the best pie he’d ever tasted and spoke about it for weeks to come.”

Smith was also impressed with McClung’s treatment of a patient who was experiencing extreme anxiety about a biopsy because he had bad experiences elsewhere. Smith said, “Lindsay paid attention to detail, ensuring he was warm, got some food and something to drink, as the patient had been restricted to no food or liquids for many hours. She spoke not only to the patient, but to the family, in a way that was understandable and comprehensive.”

To sum up, said Smith, “Lindsay is someone I strive to be.”

Gina Muth, RN

Gina Muth, RN, a longtime operating room nurse at Riley Hospital at IU Health and IU Health North Hospital, has long been known for her many acts of kindness, according to her nominator Sondra Jones, RN, clinical educator. Jones said Muth mentors new nurses, brings meals to surgeons working late, and prays with frightened family members, in addition to always showing compassion for her patients, their families and her colleagues in the course of her regular duties.

When COVID-19 hit and elective surgeries were halted, Muth volunteered to work as the liaison between COVID-19 patients and their families. Jones noted, ”She met the needs of COVID-19 patients’ families by being there and doing what was needed, donning her PPE and using FaceTime with family and patient, and collaborating with the ICU nurse and physicians to update families and answer all their questions.”

Muth has returned to her job in the operating room, but her compassion still shines through. ““Gina is not a showy person and provides acts of kindness and compassion without others being aware,” said Jones. “Gina promotes optimism with her positive attitude. She deserves this award more than any other nurse I have met at IU Health.”

Michelle White, RN

Michelle White (second to the left), RN, a cardiac surgical nurse at IU Health Arnett Hospital, was nominated by two of her fellow nurses: Tammy Kerr, RN and Rose Brown, RN. Both praised her work during the early days of COVID-19, but said White’s actions during the pandemic are just the latest example of being a strong patient advocate and a compassionate colleague.

“Michelle strives to make sure all patients are given the best, high-quality, evidence-based care,” said Brown. “She is not afraid to stop a procedure from going forward if she feels the patient could be at risk.”

While preparing for COVID-19, the three nurses were concerned that PPE guidelines were not protective enough. “Michelle lifted our concerns to leadership and put together a team to teach proper PPE donning/doffing that increased protection for the wearer,” said Brown. White agreed to be team lead for the training group, which eventually taught proper techniques to more than 1400 staff members. She also took on team lead responsibilities for rounding to advise on PPE use and COVID-19 protocols, and led the tracer team that captures critical data. “She has really been an outstanding leader,” said Brown. “She is compassionate about the information we are gathering and how that information can be used to help staff treat COVID-19 patients and protect themselves.”

White’s experience with leadership and teaching is nothing new, according to Kerr. “Michelle is a true champion of education,” said Kerr. “Along with being a cardiac surgical RN, she is an instructor of basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support. When she teaches, she is very patient and kind. She is a valuable asset to this facility.”

Pam Forgille, RN

Pam Forgille, RN, is a clinical nurse in perioperative services at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. When COVID-19 demanded changes, Forgille stepped up, according to her nominator, Patricia Avila, RN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer.

“As our Covid-19 census increased and the number of ICU patients on ventilators and without visitors increased, Pam redeployed to take on the role of patient-family liaison,” said Avila. “She went to the ICU with a ready heart and head, with serving her patients and fellow team members compassionately as her guiding principle.”

In this role, Forgille was the conduit between COVID-19 patients, families and IU Health team members. This often meant she coordinated end-of-life visits between the care team, chaplains and the patient’s loved ones, who had not seen the patient for days or weeks. “Having Pam’s gentle and compassionate presence in arranging the visits and helping set expectations has eased anxiety around these visits for both the care team and the patient’s loved ones,” said Avila.

Forgille also jumped in to aid the nursing staff as much as possible, coordinating organ donations, making phone calls, helping with documentation, answering call lights and pulling medication--all while continuing to communicate with medical providers, patients and loved ones.

When a patient with COVID-19 was being discharged after a long stay in the ICU, the team had a celebratory sendoff. “When the patient made it outside, the family asked if Pam was there,” said Avila. “They were so excited to meet her and put a face with the voice. The joy when they saw Pam and the appreciation they showed her just confirmed once again what a pivotal role she plays for our patients and their loved ones.”

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