Healthcare Doesn’t Take a Holiday

From left, Georgia Priestley, Lauren Walker, Aga Korycki, Cathy Spisak, Renee White, and Ellen Benson. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

When the 26-year old man arrived at our emergency department he was suffering from an excruciating headache. A brain scan found the bad news, a lesion the size of a golf ball. It was causing serious damage and needed to be removed ASAP. But the next day was July 4th – a time for parades, picnics, and fireworks.

“We have limited staffing on the holiday but we all got together and said we’re going to do it, we’re going to get it done,” says Ellen Benson, OR nurse manager. “It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. Health problems don’t take a holiday.”

The surgery was a complex, requiring special high-tech equipment and extra hands to support changing the position of the patient during the procedure. Along with the primary surgical team, the OR also had a back-up team ready in case another emergency procedure came in that day.

Brain scan showing golf ball size lesion.

The procedure lasted from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and went off without a hitch. The patient had a great outcome and is recovering well.

“We continue to demonstrate that the OR team can step up to the plate and deliver the  best care possible, no matter what time of day or night it is,” says Benson.

Along with Benson, the team included Agnieszka Korycki, ST; Cathy Spisak, RN; Marissa Knight, RN; Dale Keckley, PA-C; Marc Paradis, MD; Marek Pilecki, APRN; Misha Frenkle; and Ketan Bulsara, MD.

Staff who worked the day before the procedure also played a vital role. “They made sure we had everything that we needed so when we came in all we had to do was execute,” explains Benson. “Lauren Walker, Renee White and Georgia Priestly set us up for success.”


Shout It Out

From left, nurse Gina Barlow and infection prevention specialist Rachel Crosby discussing a patient on the 5th floor of University Tower. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health)

Sometimes you just want to send a quick shout-out to a colleague who has done something nice or been especially helpful. That happened recently to Rachel Crosby, infection prevention specialist. A patient on the 5th floor was not following best practices when

Shout-Out mailboxes can be found in the patient elevator alcoves in the University and Connecticut Towers. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health)

taking care of his catheter at home. His resistance was putting him at greater risk of infection. Rachel talked with his nurse, Gina Barlow, to see what she could do.

“Gina did a great job talking with him,” said Rachel.  “She was persistent in explaining what he needed to do and he finally agreed. I thought she deserved special recognition for most likely helping to prevent an infection.”

Rachel gave Gina a “Shout-Out” – by simply filling out a card and dropping it in the nearest “Staff Shout-Out” mailbox.

The Exemplary Practice/Clinical Excellence Shared Governance Committee came up with the idea which is working to improve engagement and workplace satisfaction.

“We know there are other awards, such as WOW and PAWS awards for when someone goes above and beyond, but the little things that we do for one another each day should also be recognized,” says Michelle DeLayo, Interim Director of Quality.  “For instance, coming up to a unit for a transferring patient (instead of waiting for that patient to come to you) because that unit is super busy, or just providing a shoulder for another who is having a tough day.”

The shout-outs are tallied every month and the person on each unit with the most shout-outs will receive a gift card presented at the monthly staff meeting. Shout-outs provided from another unit are worth double. The mailboxes are located on the interior walls of the patient elevator alcoves in the University and Connecticut Towers on all floors that have inpatient units. There are also mailboxes for the OB/Labor and Delivery, GI, OR/PACU, Cardio-pulmonary (2nd floor Connecticut Tower) and Radiology areas.

UConn Health Announces Its 2016 Nightingale Nurses

UConn Health has announced the 10 nurses who will be presented with Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing later this year:

JoAnne Donaldson Blythe, Procedures Center

Blythe, Joann_Nightingale_JGelineau_6994“Joanne is unique in the way she gives herself to others, and comforts them through difficult circumstances.”

“In addition to Joanne’s superb commitment to her patients’ safety, her selflessness, caring nature, and ethics clearly demonstrate her passion. Her philosophy, ‘the patient comes first,’ is always apparent by her actions. Joanne upholds the highest standards within her profession.”


Frank Faccin, Garner Correctional Institution

Faccin,Frank_Nightingale_JGelineau_7324“Frank Faccin, LPN, has been the ‘go-to’ staff member at the Department of Correction facility housing the most seriously mentally ill inmates. Despite being ‘only an LPN,’ his nursing and physician peers rely on his over 20 years of knowledge and judgement.”

“He sustained a significant injury during an inmate assault, yet returned to work with the same positive attitude he always displayed. The CDOC awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal.”

Lisa Gentile, Outpatient Infectious Diseases and Travel Clinic

Gentile, Lisa_Nightingale_JGelineau_6936final“Because of Lisa we have cured more than 97 percent of our [hepatitis C] patients.”

“Lisa is that employee that every manager wants working for them; that every doctor wants as their nurse; and every MA wants as their counterpart. And the reason is: She makes us all look good.”

Keisha Johnson, Osborn Correctional Institution

Johnson,Keisha _Nightingale9990“At any given time, she oversees the care of 45 to 50 HIV-positive inmates and oversees inmates who are in active hepatitis C treatment. She is extremely well organized, caring, and understanding in her role of ID Nurse Case Manager.”

“Keisha in July of 2015 took time out of her busy schedule to create an HIV/AIDS awareness production. This production highlights the hidden talents of many inmates. The invited inmates/staffs were able to be educated on HIV/AIDS myths and facts. Her production resulted in many inmates who were afraid to know their HIV status now requesting to be screened for the HIV virus.”

Arlene Morin, Clinical Nurse Specialist, John Dempsey Hospital

Morin, Arlene_JGelineau_5904“Arlene Does consults for inpatients and outpatients in the clinic that include teaching, support and hands-on of how and what to expect… Arlene always looks out for the patient’s best interest when it comes to their health and healing.”

“My nursing career has been personally touched by Arlene and in turn, Arlene is able to touch the lives of all patients I care for. Thank you Arlene for giving me the world’s best example of what it means to be a Nightingale Nurse.”

Lynne Neff, Correctional Managed Health Care Transitional Services Manager

Neff,Lynne_JGelineau_7071“Collaborating closely with others, Lynne has strived to ensure continuity of care and a more successful return to society for many. When the prognosis of releasing patients is poor, Lynne has creatively arranged hospice services at the patient’s home when family support has been stable, or successfully explored other options.”

“By her work, Lynne has demonstrated advocacy in caring for a diverse, underserved, and disenfranchised population that is more often than not forgotten by the public.”

Anne Niziolek, Nurse Manager, Medicine 4

Niziolek, Anne NightingaleJGelineau7110 final“Anne is deserving of the Nightingale Award because of the impact that she has had on patient care, her willingness to always go beyond the call of duty, and the excellence that she demonstrates in her leadership role.”

“Anne seizes every opportunity to make improvements in daily nursing practice, recognizing that this helps patients as well as caregivers… We are truly fortunate to have such a selfless and caring nurse and leader.”

Dawn Smith, Calhoun Cardiology Center

Smith, Dawn_Nightingale_JGelineau_7184“Dawn is simply an excellent nurse with the personality that exemplifies the strong qualities that the nursing profession was built on.”

“Dawn is a model of the type of service UConn must provide to succeed. My patient’s daughter has told several friends to come to UConn for their care. This would not happen without Dawn.”

Jennifer Sposito, Clinical Patient Navigator, Cardiac Unit

Sposito, Jennifer #44 Final“Generally speaking it takes years for a stroke coordinator to create a stroke program. Jennifer’s drive, passion, and tireless work helped reach this goal within a short five months.”

The work Jennifer has done to improve stroke care shows that our organization is exceeding the expectation.”Timothy Tralli, Correctional Head Nurse, Hartford Correctional Center

Timothy Tralli, Correctional Head Nurse, Hartford Correctional Center

Tralli, Timothy_Nightingale_JGelineau_7208“To ensure a proper ‘Code White’ response he helped initiate a training program for correctional officers on his shift… This program was the result of months of interaction and cooperation with the Warden and his staff, and currently is the only one in existence in the state. Our Codes are now a mix of the efforts of both medical and custody and are a testament to his enthusiasm and forward thinking when confronted with a problem.”

“His skills, knowledge and abilities as a nurse educator are second to none. His daily dedication is to the highest standards of nursing services.”

Note: Quotations are excerpts from the nominations. Photos by Janine Gelineau.

The 2016 Nightingale Nurses from UConn Health will join their counterparts from other institutions at an awards ceremony at the Connecticut Convention Center May 5.

New Clinicians, Researchers at UConn Health

Meet some more of the clinicians and researchers who recently joined UConn Health.

Dr. David Karimeddini, radiology
Dr. David Karimeddini, radiology

Dr. David Karimeddini leads the nuclear medicine section of the Department of Diagnostic Imaging and Therapeutics. His clinical interests include radiology, nuclear cardiology, thyroid disease and oncology imaging. His training includes a nuclear radiology fellowship at Yale University, a diagnostic radiology residency at Hartford Hospital, and an internship in medicine at UConn Health. His M.D. is from the Temple University School of Medicine. He is board certified in nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology.

Dr. Keri Discepolo, pediatric dentistry
Dr. Keri Discepolo, pediatric dentistry

Dr. Keri Discepolo is a dentist who is board certified in pediatric dentistry. She sees patients in several locations, including Farmington and West Hartford, and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Discepolo completed a pediatric dentistry residency at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, where she remained as a clinical instructor for nearly seven years. Her interests are in infant and adolescent oral health interventions, with a focus in hospital dentistry. She holds a D.D.S. (doctor of dental surgery) from the New York University College of Dentistry and a Master of Public Health from Columbia University.

Dr. Saira Cherian, primary care
Dr. Saira Cherian, primary care

Dr. Saira Cherian is a primary care physician seeing patients in the Outpatient Pavilion. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine and osteopathic medicine, including treatment of back and neck pain. Cherian stayed at UConn Health, joining the faculty after completing an internal medicine residency here. She holds a D.O. from the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Cherian is board eligible in internal medicine and speaks English, Spanish and Malayalam.

Lyla Natt, family medicine nurse practitioner
Lyla Natt, family medicine nurse practitioner

Lyla Natt is a family medicine nurse practitioner who sees patients in West Hartford. Her experience includes medical-surgical, step down, psychiatry, and long-term care. Other clinical interests include primary and preventive care, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition to being licensed as an advanced practice registered nurse, Natt holds a Master of Nursing from the Quinnipiac University School of Health Sciences.

Dr. Cristina Sánchez-Torres, psychiatry
Dr. Cristina Sánchez-Torres, psychiatry

Dr. Cristina Sánchez-Torres is now a member of the UConn Health psychiatry faculty, with whom she trained as a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry. She sees patients in Farmington and West Hartford. Her clinical interests include electroconvulsive therapy, autism, attachment, psychotic disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Sánchez-Torres completed medical school and a psychiatry residency at the University of Puerto Rico before her fellowship at UConn. She is board eligible in both psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, and speaks English and Spanish.

Kristyn Zajac, psychology research
Kristyn Zajac, psychology research

Kristyn Zajac is a researcher in the Behavioral Cardiovascular Prevention Division of the Calhoun Cardiology Center. She earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Delaware, then completed a National Institute of Mental Health-funded postdoctoral research fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina’s National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. Zajac’s research focuses on the development and evaluation of interventions for substance abuse and mental health disorders among high-risk adolescents and young adults.

 Photos by Janine Gelineau/UConn Health (except Zajac’s, which was submitted)

Finish Line in Sight for UConn Health’s New Hospital Tower

  • New UConn Health hospital tower as it appears Oct. 15, 2015 (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
It’s only a matter of months now until UConn Health’s new hospital tower changes from a construction worksite to a building ready for occupancy.

The new building, which will feature 169 single-bed inpatient rooms, is widely considered to be the centerpiece of UConn’s share of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative, an $864 million package of state investments designed to be a catalyst for economic growth in the health care and biomedical research industries. As of Sept. 1, the total number of construction jobs associated with Bioscience Connecticut was 4,540.

Malloy was on the UConn Health campus 14 months ago to sign the steel beam that would top out the tower. Construction started on the building and an adjoining 400-space parking garage April 2013.

Clinical staff and administration have started touring parts of the building and seeing finished mock-ups of patient rooms, emergency department bays and operating rooms. The new tower will include:

  • An expanded emergency department
  • Four 28-bed units that will house surgery, orthopedic, oncology and medical patients
  • A 28-bed intensive care unit with expanded surgical, medicine and neurology critical care services
  • A 29-bed intermediate unit

Once the new tower construction is complete and the hospital opens, there will be a second phase of work to make the final connections to the main building through the existing emergency department. There will also be additional exterior site work to complete near the existing ED entrance that cannot be done until after the ED moves.

Outpatient Pavilion

The UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion has one final milestone ahead: the establishment of a women’s health center on the top floor, with services including a women’s radiology center, obstetrics and gynecology, maternal-fetal medicine, and advanced women’s ultrasound.

The first practices moved in to the new building in February, and by early summer floors 1 through 7 were operational. The result has been the movement of nearly all outpatient services into a single place on the lower campus, in a patient-friendly environment, with convenient parking in a connected garage.

With its abundance of natural lighting, energy efficient design, and shower facilities to encourage employees to bike to work, the pavilion is on its way to earning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Additionally, the Connecticut Green Building Council has just named the building the winner of its 2015 Institutional Award of Merit.

Academic Building

Construction is well underway at the academic entrance, where a modernization and expansion of space for the medical, dental and graduate schools is taking place. Bioscience Connecticut calls for a 30 percent increase in class sizes and the addition and renovations will provide space to support this growth. UConn Health held a groundbreaking on convocation day. The academic entrance will remain a construction site through May.

L Building

Though less visible than the projects already mentioned, a rebuild of UConn Health’s laboratory space in what’s known as the L Building is a significant portion of the Bioscience Connecticut construction. The renovations are being accomplished under two separate projects. Project 1 started in late 2012 and is complete. Project 2 is scheduled to be complete by early 2017, at which time UConn Health will boast modern lab layouts that are open plan and conducive to collaborative research.

Cell and Genome Sciences Building

The addition of incubator laboratory space continues at the Cell and Genome Sciences Building, 400 Farmington Ave., which will enable UConn Health to attract more biotech startups. It’s another aspect of the vision of Bioscience Connecticut to create a worldwide biomedical research/biotech hub in the state. This project is scheduled for completion by the end of November 2015.

Clinic Building

The design work is complete for major renovation to the Dental School clinical space, the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, and the Main Lobby. This phased renovation will take more than two years to complete but when finished will provide state-of-the-art dental clinical space and an expanded cardiology center with additional exam space. The Main Lobby will also be given a significant update that enhances the patient flow and provides easy access to the renovated spaces. The renovations are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2016.

UConn a National Leader in Pain Education

UConn is now a Center of Excellence in Pain Education, as designated by the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH Pain Consortium, which is tasked with developing an agenda for, identifying key opportunities in, and increasing the visibility of pain research, has awarded funding to 11 health professional institutions as Centers of Excellence in Pain Education. UConn and Harvard are the only ones in New England.

“This topic is very important for medical education and for our interprofessional partners in health education,” says Dr. Suzanne Rose, UConn School of Medicine senior associate dean for education. “Being a Center of Excellence in this area is an outstanding accomplishment and will provide many opportunities for our learners and benefits our patients.”

The 11 centers are to serve as hubs for the development, evaluation and distribution of pain management curriculum resources for medical, dental, nursing, pharmacy and other schools. The objective is to enhance and improve how health care professionals are taught about pain and its treatment.

Renee Manworren of the UConn Schools of Medicine and Nursing is principal investigator in a grant that makes UConn one of 11 NIH Pain Consortium Centers of Excellence in Pain Education. (Photo provided by Renee Manworren)
Renee Manworren of the UConn Schools of Medicine and Nursing is principal investigator in a grant that makes UConn one of 11 NIH Pain Consortium Centers of Excellence in Pain Education. (Photo provided by Renee Manworren)

The principal investigator for the UConn is Renee Manworren, nurse scientist, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UConn School of Medicine, and assistant professor at the UConn School of Nursing.

“Over 100 million Americans suffer everyday with pain; and our current prescription pain medication abuse epidemic is an unintended consequence of poorly coordinated efforts to treat their pain,” Manworren says. “We’ve known for a long time that the best treatment approach for relieving pain is multimodal and multidisciplinary; but we’ve been training our health care professionals in separate schools.

“In recent years we’ve shifted our thinking: We should be providing interprofessional training—engaging and educating medical, dental, nursing, pharmacy, psychiatry and physical therapy students—as a team so we can do a better job partnering with patients to manage their pain and build our pain research expertise.”

Manworren, a nurse practitioner who also holds a doctorate in clinical research, is part of the UConn School of Nursing’s Center for Advancement in Managing Pain and a member of a medical school curriculum redesign task force that focuses on interprofessional education.

“We’ve leveraged the redesign of our curriculum to offer training in new, better, and interactive ways to educate future physicians coming from UConn,” Manworren says.

The initial NIH award to UConn is nearly $78,000, with the potential for up to four annual renewals.

“We are committed to developing and testing interprofessional pain educational methods and modules that will lead to better pain management education across the nation and ultimately, better patient outcomes,” Manworren says.


New England Sickle Cell Institute News

Dr. Biree Andemariam
Dr. Biree Andemariam

UConn Health’s Dr. Biree Andemariam Honored as Outstanding Role Model

Dr. Biree Andemariam, director of UConn Health’s New England Sickle Cell Institute was honored at the 100 Women of Color Gala recently held in Hartford. The 100 Women of Color award recognizes women who are leaders in their community and are a positive role model for young women. A portion of the proceeds from this annual event supports scholarships for young women who graduate from high school and plan on attending college, leadership and mentorship programs.


New England Sickle Cell Institute Nurses Present at National Meeting

Photo of Nayre Greene, RN, BSN (J. Gelineau/UConn Health
Nayre Greene, RN, BSN

Nayre Greene, RN, BSN, and Elizabeth Brookshire, MSN, BSN, RN, recently represented UConn Health’s New England Sickle Cell Institute at the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc.’s 43rd Anniversary Convention in Maryland. Greene, NESCI nurse coordinator, was the moderator for the meeting’s nursing symposium that highlighted five peer-reviewed oral abstracts presented by leaders in sickle cell disease nursing care and research from around the country. Greene’s talk highlighted multidisciplinary efforts at UConn Health in coordinating safe maternal-fetal outcomes among pregnant women living with sickle cell disease.

Elizabeth Brookshire, MSN, BSN, RN (Janine. Gelineau/UConn Health)
Elizabeth Brookshire, MSN, BSN, RN

Brookshire delivered a powerful talk titled, “The Nurse’s Role in Caring for the Patient with Sickle Cell Disease: Utilizing Katherine Kolcaba’s Theory of Comfort as a Guide.” Brookshire is the assistant nurse manager of John Dempsey Hospital’s oncology unit.

“NESCI is proud of the role that UConn Health nurses play on a daily basis in providing evidence-based and compassionate care to our patients living with sickle cell disease,” says NESCI director Dr. Biree Andemariam, “and now this work is known across the country.”


Pearson Named Editor-in-Chief of Nursing Scholarly Journal

Geraldine Pearson starts as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Jan. 1, 2016. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Center Photo)
Geraldine Pearson starts as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Jan. 1, 2016. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Center Photo)

UConn Health’s Geraldine Pearson will serve as editor-in-chief for the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (JAPNA) starting next year.

JAPNA is a bi-monthly peer-reviewed publication with an international circulation of nearly 13,000.

“At an exciting time of growth and increased visibility for the journal, it was paramount to secure an editor who could build upon current momentum,” says APNA President Susie Adams. “With her prior experience as an editor as well as her clearly defined vision for developing JAPNA, the Board of Directors feel confident that Dr. Pearson will be successful as editor-in-chief of JAPNA in meeting readership interests across diverse settings and roles while retaining the quality and rigor of the journal.”

Pearson, associate professor of psychiatry at the UConn School of Medicine, has been the editor of Perspectives in Psychiatric Nursing since 2008.

“My appointment as the editor-in-chief of JAPNA presents an exciting opportunity to work with an association journal that includes a membership from all ranges of psychiatric nurses involved in practice, education, administration, and research,” Pearson says. “I hope to craft a journal that meets a broad range of member needs while maintaining a professional, evidence-based focus.”

Pearson is an advanced practice registered nurse and has a doctorate in nursing research from the UConn School of Nursing. She serves as chair of the medical school’s admissions committee, as director of UConn Health’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic in West Hartford, and as director of the HomeCare Program for adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system.

“Dr. Pearson adds this achievement to several other accomplishments in her career,” says Dr. David Steffens, UConn Health psychiatry chair. “This is a recognition of her longstanding leadership in the field of academic nursing, and it speaks volumes about the important roles that nursing leaders play at UConn Health.”

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association focuses on the specialty practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing and wellness promotion, prevention of mental health problems, and the care and treatment of those with psychiatric disorders. Its journal publishes clinical and research articles intended to promote psychiatric nursing, shape health care policy for the delivery of mental health services, and improve mental health care for culturally diverse people, families, groups and communities.

Genice Nelson Honored for Impact in Sickle Cell Disease Community

Genice Nelson
Genice Nelson

In conjunction with FENDI, and in recognition of Women’s History Month, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc. (SCDAA) has honored UConn Health’s Genice Nelson, APRN, as one of several women nationally who have made a significant impact in the Sickle Cell Disease community. Genice and the other women have gone above and beyond the call of duty in hopes of making a difference in the sickle cell patient community, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. To show their appreciation, SCDAA has named the honorees the 2015 Iconic Women. The women will each receive a commemorative award from the SCDAA, as well as national recognition throughout the month of March.

Please visit SCDAA’s official Iconic Women website and make a contribution to SCDAA in honor of Genice’s work in Sickle Cell Disease by clicking on “Connecticut” and following the link by her picture. Be sure to include Genice’s name in the message box on the donation page so our local Connecticut SCDAA chapter can receive a portion of the donation.

Urban Service Track Receives Prestigious Nursing Award

UConn’s Urban Service Track (UST) program received the Connecticut Nursing Association’s Public Service Award for 2014. The annual award recognizes an individual or group who has made notable contributions to the advancement of nursing, public health or health care in Connecticut through public service, public education/advocacy, public policy or organizational leadership.

An interprofessional group of faculty and students accepted the award on behalf of the Urban Service Track. UST is a two-year curriculum that teaches students in a variety of health professions to work with at-risk populations in urban areas. Each year approximately 50 students from the UConn schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and social work are accepted into the program.