Moments That Matter
HHC Veteran Raises the Flag for Service
Sometimes the smallest gesture in life can have the biggest impact, something Bob Samartino, RN, has witnessed first-hand for the last 11 years.
Samartino’s story begins in 1984 when he was just 19. He was attending Central Connecticut State University when he decided he wanted to serve his country.
“I decided to join the Army National Guard, so I enlisted at the infantry unit in Bristol, which is where I am from,” explained Samartino, who served until 1990 and now works in Pavilion D at MidState Medical Center.
Years later, while helping his parents through medical issues, he took an interest in healthcare and enrolled in nursing school, graduating in 2009. He was hired the same year at MidState, where it didn’t take long for him to have memorable interactions with patients that would trigger a sequence of events nobody — including Samartino — expected.
“I would start talking to men or women I was caring for and learn that they were veterans, and I wanted to do something for them to help make them feel more at ease,” he said. “I decided to buy a bunch of small American flags. I stashed them in my locker at work, and when I knew one of my patients was a veteran, I’d give them a flag.”
This went on for seven years, getting the attention of colleagues and managers who liked the idea so much, they, too, began passing out flags to patients who served our country and expanded the program to The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Fast-forward to this past fall when Hartford HealthCare standardized the recognition system-wide with “Stars & Stripes for Service” on Veterans Day. Every patient who served our country received an American flag or similar gift of gratitude that day, depending on the care setting. Since it’s important to recognize our veterans beyond just one day, some locations adopted the program year-round.
“We all have immense gratitude for those who have served our country. Stars & Stripes for Service is an example of how Hartford HealthCare continues to go above and beyond to make that interaction with our patients a meaningful one. We are so proud of the fact that this program got its start at MidState and has grown in such a meaningful way,” said Janette Edwards, vice president of operations for the Central Region.
“It’s just truly incredible. What started out as such a simple idea has grown in a way I never could’ve imagined,” Samartino said. “These flags are making a world of difference. I’ve seen men and women cry when they get a flag — it’s so touching. It means a lot to us, to the patient and to their families.”
The Charlotte Hungerford Hospital/LARC Project SEARCH program team are on the go during the school year. Photo by: Tim LeBouthillier
Project SEARCH Jumpstarts Careers for Teens
Project SEARCH, a partnership between Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (CHH) and The ARC of Litchfield County (LARC), recently started its second year with smiles all around.
The program provides classes in employability skills, independent living skills and internship experience for young adults with disabilities. Four new interns are training in various departments, including nutritional services, podiatry, environmental services/housekeeping and the storeroom.
Interns participate in weekly classes, learn new skills and gain hands-on experience in food preparation, cleaning machines and rooms, stocking shelves and delivering supplies. The teens excitedly meet new people and try new things.
“We have a great group of young adults who are ready to learn, work and be a part of the hospital community. CHH staff is accommodating and very supportive of our program, especially our host liaisons,” stated LARC’s Special Educator/ Coordinator Kathy Riberdy.
After graduating from the program, the team members can seek jobs in a number of fields. Last year, LARC’s vocational team successfully placed two CHH interns in jobs where they utilize many skills they learned in the program.
Roger Street: ‘An Amazing Employee’
When patients at Backus Hospital are discharged, they are asked to fill out a satisfaction survey that covers their experience from care to food to cleanliness.
Over the years, one name comes up over and over: Roger Street.
Street has been an environmental services aide at Backus for 20 years. The 62-year-old said he loves his job, his coworkers and, especially, his patients.
“Housekeeper Roger was very sweet, did a good job cleaning my room and always asked if I needed anything before he left my room,” read one survey.
Street currently works on the oncology floor at the hospital, where a patient can be admitted for many days at a time.
“Roger from housekeeping was always polite, professional and friendly,” another survey said.
William Gerjes, East Region director of environmental services, said Street “makes an extra effort to get to know the patients. He has an awesome heart, he’s caring and loving.” He added that Street makes the effort to be on hand when a patient is being discharged, to say goodbye.
“Roger with housekeeping was excellent, always let me know when he was coming into the room. Kept the room neat and tidy. An amazing employee,” a patient wrote.
Street said hearing how patients mention him by name as doing a good job “makes me feel good.”
“When I clean, I try and talk to them as I’m working. Sometimes, they don’t get many visitors so I talk with them,” he said.
One patient Roger spoke with a lot is Matthew Crowe, who was admitted to Backus in October 2010 after being terribly injured in a car crash. In a coma with a traumatic brain injury, Crowe spent time at Backus in 2010 and 2011 as part of a long, grueling recovery.
“I would just talk to him,” Street said, even when Crowe was unconscious.
The two stay in touch even now.
“He texts me every day,” Street said.
Environmental Services colleague Roger Street keeps things in tip top shape and clean throughout the A-2 floor of Backus Hospital. Roger is always quick to strike up a conversation with patients as he cleans their rooms, or offer a word of encouragement. He’ll be the first to recognize the great staff on the floor which treats most of the cancer patients at Backus hospital.
Nursing Journal Club Elicits Insight, Sharing
The Hartford HealthCare at Home Nursing Journal Club started as a way to help connect colleagues, allow them to share ideas and generate new and improved ways to provide care.
Meeting once a month via Zoom, the group covers a wide range of topics related to homecare nursing, including patient safety and critical care clinical practices. The overall goal is to develop nurses’ awareness of current research studies and best available evidence, and keep them up-to-date with new findings, practices and care trends.
The club was also invited to join Hartford HealthCare’s Nursing Research Council and members have developed new pilot programs for homecare nursing that are currently being implemented throughout the system.
“I am so excited that we are part of this prestigious, forward-thinking nursing group,” said Hartford HealthCare at Home Vice President Laurie St. John. “This aligns with our vision to deliver the highest quality of nursing care to our patients. Nurses are at the forefront of healthcare and it is programs like this that elevate the clinical practice of nursing to bring the latest in technology and nursing best practice to our homecare patients.”
Anyone interested in participating in the Nursing Journal Club can reach out to Joanne Galayda at Joanne.Galayda@hhchealth.org.