In May, Kelly was elected by her colleagues as the Coffey Health System Health Care Worker of the Year, securing her nomination to the state level. She was among 14 nominees from hospitals across Kansas.
“On behalf of the board and all of our staff, I congratulate Kelly,” said Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hernandez. “Kelly is an example of everything we hope for in a nurse. But, more importantly, she is everything our patients hope for in a nurse.”
While she excels in all areas of her job, Kelly takes extraordinary care and compassion with her discharge instructions. She makes time to visit with—and truly listen to—the patients in her care so she knows what to address upon discharge.
Through visiting with a gentleman in acute care and swing bed, Kelly came to realize that the patient couldn’t read. She took it upon herself to do research and find online videos that she could use during her patient’s discharge.
“Kelly identified the problem because she takes the time to listen to her patients,” said Chief Nursing Officer Melissa Hall. “She found a solution that allowed her to thoroughly educate her patient with compassion and dignity. She came to me as a confirmation, but she’d already brilliantly solved the problem.”
Kelly isn’t a nurse who just comes in to do a job and collect a paycheck. She invests in everyone and genuinely cares. Her patients often come back to express how caring she is and that she feels like family.
She is a natural caregiver, for both her patients and her colleagues. Even after 40 years of nursing, she doesn’t hesitate to give a bath, give a backrub, or jump in to help wherever needed. Staff from all departments appreciate her giving spirit.
One long-time colleague said of Kelly, “She’s not afraid to get dirty. She’ll do any job without hesitation. When we’re really busy, she jumps in and we attack admissions together. She’s always right there and it never feels like a bother or imposition to her.”
Her positive nature and sense of humor help her to bond with patients, families, and staff. Kelly is the living embodiment of the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” She handles everything that is thrown at her with the utmost professionalism—but when the crisis ends, she comes through with a witty comment that leaves everyone around her with smiles and laughter.
In Kelly’s world, “family” means a lot of things. She has her own extended family. Her patients’ families. Her work family. And their families. She genuinely invests in the people she meets and treats everyone like her own. Colleagues look forward to birthday cakes from Kelly, often delivered to the hospital on her days off.
Kelly’s thorough attention to the discharge process is a model for all nurses. She looks beyond obvious comorbidities and into the patient’s living situation in order to truly educate her patients and families. She is careful to assure that her patients understand not just the instructions, but the big picture of their health. As with her patient who couldn’t read, Kelly finds the best possible way to educate each individual, even if it takes stepping outside the box.
“Kelly does 100 little things that make work easier for everyone. Sometimes it’s those obvious things that everyone complains about, but nobody takes action. Kelly finds solutions,” Hall said. “She pointed out that our EMR software gave 50 options for immunizations but we only carry two, so Kelly suggested deleting the other 48. This saves nurses time scrolling through unnecessarily. She also recently suggested rearranging the med room to give better access to the crash cart. She thinks through every situation and isn’t afraid to speak up when she sees ways for improvement.”
Four decades at Coffey County Hospital
She’s seen a lot of changes in the nursing field and at Coffey County Hospital over the course of her career. New technology and modalities have changed the practice of medicine, but Kelly likes to look at the human side.
“For a while, I was a surgery scrub nurse and we were on-call seven days a week,” she said. “It was before pagers and cell phones, so we had to stay home. And before specialized medicine, floor nurses covered the ER and obstetrics. We all had to be able to do everything, and we had to rely on each other.”
Advances in health care have not changed that.
“It’s wonderful that we now can catch diagnoses before something goes wrong. We still rely on each other, but we are providing an amazing level of health care. I love my unit. They are my family.”