Medical Center Board Bestows Patient Care Awards on Top Staff

Six Individuals, Four Teams, Spotlighted for Stellar Service

January 24, 2012

This week, during the University of Rochester Medical Center Board’s annual meeting, Board Chair Bob Latella presented the 2011 Excellence Awards to some of the institution’s most exceptional employees. Altogether, six individuals and four teams were spotlighted for their unwavering personal and professional dedication to delivering a patient care experience that demonstrates integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence.

The awards are among the highest honors given to Medical Center employees, as they are the only institution-wide patient-care awards that recognize staff from throughout the Medical Center’s many divisions.

Individual Awards

Lenora Colaruotolo, LMSW, senior social worker serving the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, received this year’s Board Excellence Award in the Dentistry category. Colleagues say that, on top of being someone who quickly earns your trust, Colaruotolo is compassionate, resourceful, insightful and very persistent. In fact, she’s spent the last eight years championing children’s dental needs (especially those related to craniofacial anomalies), improving the oral health of our area’s low-income residents, and advocating for quality-of-life dental matters for frail patients who’ve finished cancer treatments. So committed to finding innovative ways to eliminate barriers to care, Colaruotolo has even organized brand new charity events herself – including “Sponsor a Smile,” on ongoing fundraiser that to date has raised more than $9,000 to help patients pay for transportation to appointments, prescriptions, and other medical needs. Colaruotolo lives in Greece.

This year’s Board Excellence Award-winning physician – URMC’s chief of the Division of General Medicine Marc Berliant, M.D. – boasts more than 30 years of front-line, primary care experience. Besides investing a great deal of time teaching (he considers training the next generation of physicians both an honor and a professional duty), Berliant has proven a sharp businessman; as medical director of Strong Internal Medicine (URMC’s resident-faculty practice) he’s implemented a team-based, medical home model that’s boosted practice efficiency (volume is up at least 25 percent any given month). Thanks to this, the clinic is now able to accept new patients who are discharged from Strong but haven’t yet found a personal provider. In his free time, Berliant spends one evening a month volunteering as preceptor for the UR medical student’s Tuesday night clinic at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, which offers no- or low-cost care services to area residents without work or insurance. On top of this, he’s spearheading an ambitious, hospital-wide quality improvement project – “Safe Transitions” – which aims to facilitate safer, more fluid moves when patients are discharged from the hospital. He lives in Perinton.

Research compliance officer Michael Ritz, of the Office of Research and Project Administration, is the recipient of the 2011 Excellence Award for Business professionals. Ritz, who boasts enviable organization skills and a gift for maintaining momentum on unwieldy projects, is at the helm of a far-reaching initiative to standardizeall of URMC’s clinical research financial and billing processes. Besides leading a 40-member core working group in hammering out new fiscal protocols (which help the medical center keep in compliance with ever-evolving regulations – and avoid potential penalties for missteps), he’s recently kept busy retraining faculty and staff (through a mix of online learning curriculum, which he built from scratch, and in-person educational lectures). Ritz lives in Rochester.

Nurse manager Shayne Hawkins, R.N, is the recipient of the 2011 Board Excellence Award in Nursing. A remarkable leader of our Neurology inpatient unit, Hawkins is a caregiver at heart –naturally attuned to patient needs and most comfortable by the bedside. She also displays incredible talent for developing communication techniques that make the hospital more patient- and family-friendly; most recently, her team began mounting photographs of the assigned nurse on patients’ doorframes and whiteboards. The gesture has been so well-received, it’s already been replicated across ten other units. Also, thanks to Hawkins’ strong leadership, career satisfaction scores on the Neurology unit are the highest in the entire hospital (in fact, in the past year, five nurses on the unit have decided to pursue advanced neurology certification). The team’s passion and happiness translates, in turn, to patients’ giving the unit high marks on voluntary satisfaction surveys (these scores that have helped the unit exceed national performance benchmarks many months in a row). Hawkins lives in Walworth.

This year’s Excellence Award in the Clinician category goes to senior pediatric social worker Carla LeVant, LMSW, for her dedication to evolving pediatric care to be more focused on patients and their families. LeVant, a 25-year-veteran at Golisano Children’s Hospital, has been overseeing the hospital’s family advisory council for the past decade; under her leadership, the councils have made big gains for families – such as loosening the visitation policies in the Neonatal ICU (NICU), which now allows families to be with their children any time of day. Levant, prior to serving families with babies in the NICU, worked closely with childhood oncology/hematology patients and their families, developing a strong support group for families affected by pediatric brain tumors. Her incredible ability to comfort families in the midst of grief and anxiety is one of her biggest talents; each year, she plays an integral role in the hospital’s annual memorial service for children who have died. LeVant lives in Pittsford.

The final individual Excellence award – for the Clerical category – was presented to receptionist Lu Sansone, who works for Patient and Family Services in the Department of Social Work. Often the first face to greet hundreds of weekly walk-ins in the Care Management Office – located directly off Strong Memorial Hospital’s bustling lobby – Sansone frequently encounters patients and families in highly emotional states. Not easily flustered, however, she attentively listens to each complaint or concern, responds with compassion and respect, and then expertly triages the guests to the right person for help. Countless guest comments have praised her “great smile, kind heart and good attitude.” On top of these daily problem-solving duties, each year Sansone processes thousands of hotel reservations for patients and families via Strong Hotel and Lodging Services. She lives in Webster.

Team Awards

A Team Excellence Award was given to nurses, providers and support staff on the 4-3400 Med-Surg unit – both for their relentless pursuit of quality improvement, and for their bold embrace of new strategies that empower patients and families. Since last January, the unit’s staff have been piloting an effort to literally keep patients at the center: Team bedside rounding, which encourages attendings, residents, charge nurses, discharge coordinators and even pharmacy residents to meet at each patient’s bedside for morning rounds. The practice helps to solidify, in a patient’s mind, that there’s a broad team cooperating toward their care. The team also piloted a new pharmacy project that offers one-on-one medication counseling at discharge, equipping patients to juggle their own prescriptions once back home. What’s more, 4-3400 – known for its helpfulness and incredible customer service – gets rave reviews from patients; in fact, this October, the unit’s HCAHPS scores (which gauge patient satisfaction) topped out at a perfect 100 percent in the areas of “Courtesy,” “Listening,” and “Pain Management.” 4-3400’s “Nurse” and “Physician” category marks also ranked far above the national average. The unit is led by Medical Director Amy Blatt, M.D., and Nurse Manager Linda Schmitt, R.N.

A second Team Excellence Award was presented to the 100-plus team steering our eRecord Implementation Team – a transformative effort to unifying URMC’s diverse medical information systems. Under eRecord – a $78 million venture representing the largest operational change in URMC’s history – faculty and staff now access a single, shared electronic chart, reaping the benefits of increased efficiency, safety boons, and quality improvement. At a breakneck speed of 18 months, the eRecord implementation team worked tirelessly to not only purchase and build an optimal technology system, but to fundamentally retrain more than 14,000 providers, nurses, ancillary service professionals in new means of delivering (and documenting) care. Thanks to the new technology, staff have reported numerous safety success stories (describing instances where the computer alerted them to would-be medication errors); the hospital has also enjoyed greater productivity (e.g., lab turn-around times fell 10 to 12 percent, and faculty and staff report that they are able to review their patient data faster, thanks to not having to search for paper charts or toggle between various computer programs.) The effort was led by Chief Information Officer Jerry Powell, Chief Medical Information Officer Dave Krusch, M.D., and Director Dawn DePerrior.

The third Team Excellence Award was presented to the faculty and staff from Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation’s Ambulatory Clinic.  Led by Department Chair Regis J. O’Keefe, M.D., Ph.D., program administator James Hoefen, and nurse manager Kathi Hoffman, R.N., the team’s recent customer satisfaction marks of 95 percent in both “overall rating of care received during visit” and the “degree to which all staff treated you with respect” is indisputable evidence of its efforts to extend the best care possible. The team also recently participated in a “Kaizen” session (lean process improvement retreat) that’s since helped them improve customer service, reducing check-in and check-out times to a mere 24 seconds. Other new practices – such as e-mailing electronic maps and courtesy appointment reminders, which in turn have reduced the number of patients arriving at an incorrect clinic location, and hiring a patient advocate to offer waiting room guests coffee, tea, and updates as to how the clinic is moving along that day – have made visits much more pleasant.

The fourth and final group Excellence Award was presented to URMC’s Palliative Care Team – a multi-disciplinary crew consisting of board-certified physician specialists in palliative care, nurses, nurse practitioners, researchers, fellows, medical residents, students, social workers, chaplains, a music practitioner, massage therapists, a bereavement coordinator, administrative and support staff, volunteers and friendly visitors. The team – led by nurse manager Regina Robinson, R.N., and Timothy E. Quill M.D., director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care – has been recognized with the American Health Association’s Circle of Life Citation of Honor for its community-wide palliative care and end-of-life initiatives; its inpatient facility, The Albert and Phyllis Sussman Palliative Care Unit, is the region’s only hospital-based palliative care unit. Serving approximately 250 patients each year, the team excels at delivering patient-centered medical care and disease management, coupled with therapeutic activities for patients and families – such as massage therapy, visual mediation, pet therapy and family teas.

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Becky Jones
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