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Four St. Luke's Stories: Anything but 'business as usual'

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
March 17, 2015

Today’s guest blogger, Kathy Moore, CEO of St. Luke’s West Region, reminds us of why we all went into health care. 

She reminds us of the difference we make in people’s lives and shares examples that support what I have been saying: We are building the healthcare delivery system of the future, the one we would want for ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, and our families.  

If you need to be inspired and to reconnect to our purpose, this blog post is for you. Thank you, Kathy, for reminding us of our meaningful work and the great things that are happening all around St. Luke’s Health System. 

I’m proud of the work St. Luke’s does for our communities, and with our friends and partners in the communities we serve.

Because of services provided by St. Luke’s, patients can stay in their homes and neighborhoods, receive family support, and get quality care comparable to that provided by the best health systems in the country.

That’s what I take great pride in most days. And then there are those very special days, where I’m reminded in powerful ways, of just how important and meaningful our work is to individual lives and families.

Including mine. I’m a local girl. I was born at St. Luke’s and graduated from Caldwell High School, Boise State University, and Northwest Nazarene University.

My family lives locally and receives health care from St. Luke’s, and my dad’s recent experience has really driven home the value of the great treatment we provide here at home.

My dad sees a St. Luke’s cardiologist regularly. He has had open heart surgery performed by a St. Luke’s cardiovascular surgeon, and recently had a procedure by another one of St. Luke’s great physicians. I was unable to be with him on the day of his procedure, and I was so grateful to know that he was going to be in capable clinical hands.

What I did not anticipate was the emotional connection that the staff would make with my dad, my mom, and the rest of my family. The care and love he received while at St. Luke’s could not have been better. The physician and staff were phenomenal!

He’s not the only patient whose experience leaves me in awe. I want to share three other recent examples, in different settings and locations, in which community members had lifesaving encounters with the St. Luke’s team. For me, they demonstrate that “business as usual” doesn’t begin to describe the community asset that is St. Luke’s.

Continuity of care

Cindy Mosier, senior director of patient care and quality for St. Luke’s McCall, has spent much of the past eight months or so designing and ensuring care for a community member with complicated health needs, involving multiple surgeries, numerous medications, and dozens of clinicians at several St. Luke’s locations.

St. Luke’s McCall is a critical access hospital, and her application of the hospital’s swing status, which allows such facilities to care for patients transitioning from an acute care setting to a skilled nursing environment, meant a return to health for an active and treasured area resident.

The patient, who had been immobilized by a combination of conditions and injuries, was able to regain strength, mobility, and vitality in the hospital’s swing-bed arrangement.

Mosier and the team got creative and showed persistence, and saved the patient’s life. Mosier thinks the effort speaks highly to St. Luke’s efforts to ensure continuity of care across settings and locations, and that the attention to all the details culminated in better health, better care, and lower cost, St. Luke’s aims for everyone involved in our health care.

The experience changed the patient’s perspective, Mosier said.

“It was the most amazing experience,” she said. “We showed how much we did care.

“We made the difference.”

With one life, a family saved

Nurse Melissa Ward, a Mother Baby Care Unit case manager with our Boise location, received a distressing call from a non-St. Luke's nurse practitioner one day this past summer.

The nurse practitioner had concerns about a new mother who’d given birth about a month earlier. The practitioner knew we conducted postpartum depression screening calls and believed the patient was experiencing severe postpartum depression.

Nurses Judy Cross, St. Luke’s Women's Services Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Patricia Belsher, St. Luke's maternity phone follow-up nurse, got involved. They worked with the practitioner to develop a plan of care for the patient, provided information, and coached the non-St. Luke’s staff member through the situation.

They also worked directly with the young woman and encouraged her to visit St. Luke's Boise Emergency Department where she met with Judy and a postpartum depression screening was performed. The screening showed that she was at extremely high risk. She also talked about self-harm and ways harm might come about.

Judy spent significant time with her in the ER and developed a plan that involved a social worker, immediate psychiatric care, and her physician.

We heard back from the young mother several weeks later. She told us that we had saved her life. Judy Cross doesn’t doubt it, and says it’s not the first time, that in fact the team has intervened at critical points many times.

St. Luke’s care and concern in this case extended to include the work and role of non-St. Luke’s medical specialists, and shows just how seriously we take postpartum depression. We have every reason to believe that in this case and in others where severe postpartum depression has been identified and attended to, we have preserved entire families.

Christmas Eve rescue

Against all odds, and in blizzard-like conditions, the Air St. Luke’s team took part in a relay rescue that involved several public safety agencies, crossed county lines, and required multiple means of transportation.

When a vacationer in a remote, snowbound cabin north of Idaho City began to experience symptoms of a heart attack on Christmas Eve, his son strapped on a headlamp and skied out, after dark and in heavy snowfall, for help. Without cell phone reception, he dug his vehicle out and drove to Idaho City.

What followed was a life-saving sequence involving a snowmobile, the Idaho City ambulance, Air St. Luke’s and some of its off-duty members, and St. Luke’s Treasure Valley locations. One team headed back in the direction of the cabin while the Air St. Luke’s crew left Boise for Idaho City. The snowmobile got the patient from the cabin to the ambulance, which rendezvoused with the Air St. Luke’s team in Idaho City.

Air St. Luke’s treated the patient, whose blood pressure was dangerously low and whose heart was racing, as transport continued to St. Luke’s Meridian. In all, more than a dozen clinicians, emergency dispatch specialists, drivers, and others were involved in the rescue before the patient was delivered into the care of hospital personnel, according to Mike McGrane, Air St. Luke’s director.

Dr. Marshall Priest, executive medical director of St. Luke’s Heart, said the patient’s recovery has been steady and that cardiac rehabilitation had been planned. He credits St. Luke’s relationships with government public safety agencies, strong collaboration, and teamwork for the remarkable effort.

Miracles, every single one of them. The care provided to my dad is the same care that this amazing team provides to every patient, every time. St. Luke’s goes the extra mile – in blizzards, for months, when things otherwise might be nearly invisible to others – on a daily basis.

I want to say a huge, heartfelt thanks to all our physicians and staff for all they do to make St. Luke’s services some of the best in the country.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.