Standouts behind the scenes: These clinicians go above and beyond for patients and co-workers

Burnout rates are soaring, staffing shortages are rampant and the effects of COVID-19 still linger. It is not an easy time to be a healthcare professional, yet many clinicians across the country give their time and efforts daily to make sure patients get topnotch care. 

Becker's asked physician and nurse leaders at hospitals and health systems across the country to share stories of standout front-line workers for whom recognition is overdue. These leaders lauded clinicians who consistently go above and beyond their regular responsibilities, get creative with problem solving and remain open in the face of change.

Editor's note: Some responses have been lightly edited for brevity. 

Sam Bagchi, MD. Chief Clinical Officer at Christus Health (Irving, Texas): Just the entirety of our nursing workforce, especially in our higher acuity units, rises to the top of the list in terms of being at the absolute front lines of the COVID pandemic, always needing to be ready for our sickest patients even if it's not COVID. And frankly, now we're seeing many more delayed, deferred, more severe high-acuity cases. 

But in particular, there's certainly another group of unsung heroes that I think about a lot: pharmacists. They've been working equally hard, had challenging staffing conditions and also special challenges with new vaccines, new medications, new protocols. They've done an incredible job and helped us not only keep up, but frankly thrive during a challenging time.

Tarina Kang, MD. CMO at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital (Glendale, Calif.): Bridget Berg, program manager for the patient experience and volunteer program, has worked so closely with our nursing colleagues and physicians to establish best practices and best practice implementation efforts for programs related to improving the patient experience. She was instrumental in creating our No One Dies Alone program. Bridget is a tireless patient advocate and someone that we absolutely cannot do without.

Eric Katz, MD. CMO at Banner Health (Phoenix): Stephanie Campbell, MD, was our medical director through the pandemic, and the work that she did to orient her team was incredible. She was able to teach emergency physicians, whose training expertise and interest is in the first four hours of care, how to take care of someone for seven days. That's something none of us ever thought of before. One of the things that I really respect Stephanie for is that she would also call me and say, "This is someone salvageable, you need to get them somewhere because I've done everything I can." She was great about making those connections. 

Jason Grimsman, DO, came in really looking at how to re-level ED volumes among post-COVID surges, how to bring staffing back up with emergency physicians, trying to work with the team to create a level playing field for everybody and make it a good place to work again.

Charles Morris, MD. Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston): Paul Murphy, RN, exemplifies the incredible care and attention we aim to provide for every patient as part of our core mission. He is not only highly skilled but maintains a positive attitude in all circumstances, impacting and encouraging all those fortunate enough to work with him. Paul has been instrumental in how we designed our workflows in the ED. He never fails to recognize our interdisciplinary team members during challenging times to ensure people are hearing positive feedback. He is a mentor to others and never fails to check in with them after tough cases. He can be counted on to provide a listening ear to all who need one. Simply put, as his colleagues report, Paul is "one of the absolute best" and we're so pleased to have him as a part of our exemplary team in the ED.

Kim Rankin, MSN, RN. Associate Vice President of Nursing Services at Geisinger Medical Center (Danville, Pa.): Cassidy Merrifield, BSN, RN, is an incredibly thorough and knowledgeable nurse who continuously advocates for her patients. She takes time out of her shift to thoroughly update family members and make sure they completely understand what we are doing for their loved one. She is fast on her feet and she does a great job applying her technical skills, especially in a time of crisis. Cassidy knows her patients inside and out, both clinically and personally, and goes out of her way to provide high-quality, compassionate, evidence-based care. She is a phenomenal resource for all her co-workers, regularly offering to help others and taking the time to teach as she helps out. She is always willing to raise concerns and help unit leadership devise solutions to problems.

Rachel Cunniffe, RN, is dedicated to enhancing the patient experience by making sure staff are well prepared for their role. Organized, self-motivated, determined and passionate are only a few of the traits she portrays that make her stand out as an excellent nurse. Rachel is always willing to go the extra mile when the department is busy, from helping a co-worker to taking an assignment of her own. She keeps the staff up to date with changes in all policies new and old and is a great resource when you have a question about anything in our department. Her knowledge of the obstetrics patient is unmatched and serves as an invaluable resource for all staff. She is highly organized and self-driven to make sure the staff on her unit and beyond are comfortable with any OB patient. She advocates for nurses to be independent, empowered and accountable to their own practice.

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