Friday, October 7, 2011

Paying Tribute to Nurses Who Make a Difference Every Day

My job as CEO of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of Pennsylvania has provided me the opportunity to meet so many special individuals – all striving to make a difference in the lives of the people they touch. The DAISY Award recognizes such people – nurses who provide exceptional levels of care and compassion.

This past Friday, I was pleased to represent UnitedHealthcare at The DAISY Award ceremony at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – or CHOP – and recognize nurses who insist that “they are just doing what they are trained to do” but truly go above and beyond the call of duty. I thank CHOP’s Steven Altschuler, M.D., CEO, and Kathy Gorman, R.N., chief nursing officer, for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful event.

The Barnes family established The DAISY Foundation in 2000 in memory of their son J. Patrick Barnes to create a lasting legacy to Patrick and to spotlight the extraordinary care that many of the more than three million nurses across the country provide to their patients and their families every day. Each month, nurses are selected by their nursing administration, peers and patients to receive “The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.” As of March 2011, more than 8,000 nurses at more than 800 hospitals have been recognized with this award. I’m proud to say that UnitedHealthcare provides financial support to The DAISY Foundation and that CHOP was our 94th DAISY hospital and 22nd children’s hospital to receive these grants.

Like many families, I have an extraordinary nurse story. Mine began when my first son, George, was born and we learned he would need six surgeries over eight years. After his first surgery, at age six, recovery was tough – but Nurse Gail was with us every step of the way, as health care provider, patient advocate, emotional rock, and, most importantly, friend. When George returned six months later for his second surgery, he was very scared – and as a young mother, I didn’t know what to do or say to comfort him. Then, out of nowhere, Nurse Gail appeared. She knew we would be there and had to check in on “her George.” When he saw her, he knew – and I knew – everything would be all right. My son is 23 now and perfectly healthy.

Throughout the years, we’ve reflected from time to time on the health care professionals who supported George. But almost every day, I remember Nurse Gail and the difference she made in George’s life.

I thank the Barnes family for turning their heartbreak into a “call to action,” encouraging those touched by nurses and their compassionate care to recognize these special caregivers. Bonnie and Mark, Patrick’s parents, have told hundreds of nurses over the past decade, “You may think what you do every day is routine, but please do not take what you do for granted. Appreciate the impact you have on so many people. Your patients and families – and everyone in their lives – surely do.”

While The DAISY Award recognizes nurses who work in a medical setting, I want to recognize the more than 7,000 nurses at UnitedHealth Group who help put our mission into action by improving the way health care works for people. The DAISY ceremonies spotlight nurses as part of the foundation to help people stay well, get well or live with illness.

To all DAISY Award winners – to my Nurse Gail – and all nurses for their extraordinary commitment to quality care and compassionate service – a heartfelt thank you.

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