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St. Luke’s team spirit lifts up frontline workers

St. Luke's physicians helped put together more than 300 gift bags for frontline nurses and respiratory therapists in Boise, Meridian and Nampa.
By Dave Southorn, News and Community
December 23, 2020

Even if she couldn’t just walk in and say thank you, Keri Noll wanted to find some way to express gratitude to the frontline workers of St. Luke’s.

Noll, director of pediatric rehabilitation at St. Luke’s, felt that while her group had continued to function somewhat as usual through the pandemic, the lives and routines of those working with COVID-19 patients had completely changed.

“I’ve seen the things they have posted on Facebook, how hard it is, hearing stories internally, how they’ve been working double shifts,” Noll said.

“When you’re on the sidelines, you want to help, but it’s difficult to do that right now, other than let them know you care.”

With the holidays approaching, Noll had an idea – send cards to workers in the COVID units, the ICU and the emergency departments. Noll knew that her co-worker, Abby Fry, senior manager of St. Luke’s Children’s rehab, had a talented daughter. The end result? Aubrey Oakey, 13, designed the card you see to the left.

“She’s a talented kid,” Noll said. “I thought it looked just perfect.”

Mike Mahan of ARC Document Solutions, who received a Luke Award in January for his continued support of St. Luke’s Children’s, said he would make 500 cards for free.

Noll figured that would be enough, but she later decided she’d try to reach every hospital in the system, so she asked Mahan for 30 posters to hang in break rooms.

Children’s and rehab staff members, about 200 people in all, signed up to help sign cards and add messages to the posters, all sent off to reach their destinations in time to contribute to holiday cheer.

“They’re being stretched to the limit, so I hope they know there are a lot of people, including those of us right here at St. Luke’s, that appreciate them,” Noll said.

Giving to those who have given so much

No one sees just how difficult this year has been for frontline workers this year more than the people they work alongside.

As the holidays approached, a group of St. Luke’s physicians wanted to make sure that the work of nurses and respiratory therapists was not going unnoticed.

Gift bags ready to be delivered!

The fatigue, the added shifts, taking care of their own families after work, the emotional impact of seeing COVID-19 ravage patients and seeing some people still refuse to take it seriously, has taken a tremendous toll.

The physicians started a grassroots campaign to raise funds. Other physicians in neurosurgery, cardiology, internal medicine and more caught wind of it and wanted to contribute. They went to local churches to ask to get the word out and used social media to ask for funds.

It worked – more than $18,000 was raised, with about one-third of that coming from the community.

With the money, a total of 323 gift bags were put together for nurses and respiratory therapists who support the ICU at the Meridian, Boise and Nampa St. Luke’s hospitals. Each included some chocolate, a blanket, a tumbler and a $20 Chick-Fil-A gift card.

Each bag also included hand-made cards from the children of the physicians.

But that wasn’t all. One thing the nurses frequently mentioned to physicians was the inability to get a good cup of coffee during their shifts. Money went to purchase Keurig coffee makers for each ICU and coffee cups meant to last into the spring.

‘A pandemic of positivity’

Teresa Hall, St. Luke’s Boise interim chief nursing officer, and her team of nurse managers and directors started an act of kindness that has spread among many St. Luke’s work groups.

The idea for a “pandemic of positivity” bubbled up as Teresa and her leaders brainstormed ways to keep spirits up earlier in the pandemic. Since that time, dozens of poster boards with affirming and uplifting messages have been created and shared in different units at the Boise and Twin Falls hospitals, as departments have “adopted” departments in other locations.

Some units have paid it forward with interest to colleagues in other units, sending along flowers, gift baskets and other gestures of appreciation. The theme also has been taken up within daily huddles, in which staff members share updates regarding the work happening in their areas.

“It just took off. It took off,” said Cheryl Martin, who has been supporting the effort along with Hall and the team.

About The Author

Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.