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“It was very important for me to have an event. And a ‘high tea’ elevates. We can sit back and celebrate our profession together,” Jim Renneker, vice president of nursing said. In addition to sweets, he made sure event attendees had nutritional options in order to fit with one of the key Health for Life pillars—eating healthy.
A dozen tall tables filled the space, and giant leafy plants lined the walls. Sheila Coogan, MSN, director of the hospital’s 3-South and Gastrointestinal unit, greeted nurses as they entered, encouraging them to take respite in the afternoon and enjoy each other’s company. A cello and flute duo played over the hum of excited chatter.
Maryann Fiorentino, RN, works in otolaryngology. She stood at a table eating and laughing with half a dozen other nurses. “I’ve been here for 20 years, and they’ve never done anything like this. Everyone saw the set up and said they had to come down,” she said.
Event organizers sent out invitations to the nurses and patient care technicians. “Too often, we invite people with a flier, poster or email, but we wanted it to be delicate, floral, over the top,” said Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services, who helped organize the event. “We wanted it to have that awe.”
Physicians stopped by, too, which Renneker said was good for the nurse-doctor relationship. Because nurses and doctors work so closely together, the tea offered a chance to connect outside of the working environment.
Even nurses came in on their day off to partake in the festivities. Denise King, RN, started at Weiss in April after 30 years as a nurse. She said that usually on her days off from Weiss she babysits for her grandchildren. Today, however, she stopped by for the tea. “I’m a socializer, so it’s no problem,” she said.
To Stella Hatcliffe, vice president of nursing, King’s presence—as well as that of the other off-shift nurses—meant a great deal. “They took unpaid time to be in the hospital,” she said, shaking her head, surprised and impressed. “Nurses spend the most time with patients,” she continued. “A lot of people here quietly do a really good job.”
Renneker agreed. “They’re responsible for meeting the needs of our patients and patients’ families,” he said.
In addition to the tea, Renneker organized an award ceremony—the first annual Nightingale Excellence in Nursing Award. Named after the nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, the award honors one inpatient nurse, one outpatient nurse and one patient care technician.
Toward the end of the tea, Renneker stood before the attendees and announced the award winners. For inpatient care, Nella Hernandez won; the outpatient care award went to Brad Aleonar; and Daxa Patel won the award for patient care technician. Leadership had nominated them (though next year Renneker said he would like to incorporate peers into the process), and each winner received a plaque, check and bouquet of bright pink roses.
“We wanted to say we really appreciate you, 365 days a year,” Tuohy said.