After 33 years as a certified nursing assistant in the Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford Emergency Department, George Wright knows that sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
On Feb. 3 at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, Hallmark Health System celebrated its exemplary 2014 employees of the month and named Wright the 2014 employee of the year. Wright, a Medford resident, was chosen among an excellent pool of 11 colleagues as the employee who most strongly embodies Hallmark Health's cornerstones of achieving excellence: service, people, growth, quality, and fiscal responsibility.
"George is a real gem," said Kori Carroll, clinical manager of the emergency department and urgent care center, his direct supervisor. "He is instrumental to the flow of the emergency department, especially on high volume days. He is unbelievably reliable, knows what to do in any instance, never loses his cool, and always shows up with a smile on his face."
Prior to the announcement, Carroll was inundated with messages in support of Wright's nomination. Doctors, nurses, patients and relatives of patients all praised Wright's work and shared stories of the difference he has made.
"I was surprised that so many people wrote so many nice things," Wright said after receiving his award. "I just do my work. I didn't know people felt that way, and I'm very grateful."
Working in the emergency department can be hectic and taxing with some intense and solemn moments. "But I like to take a more lighthearted approach to things when I can," explained Wright. He jokes with patients to lighten the anxiety they may feel.
"Some patients can be serious and scared," said Wright. "They just want a light moment – something foolish, something silly." This winter he's been saying, "This beats shoveling!" which makes patients laugh.
"When you can take someone's mind off their anxiousness, they feel better," he said.
Even with his friendly sense of humor, sometimes his work is no laughing matter. He cares for many patients who are agitated and in pain. "I try to slow down and listen to their story," said Wright, "to give them an ear and not make judgments."
Wright's anticipation of when to make a joke, when to listen calmly, and how to be a step ahead of everyone is the key to his invaluable presence in the emergency department. "In 33 years you see a lot of things," Wright described, "how people act and react to certain things. You know what people are going to need and what the doctors and nurses are going to want."
For his employee of the year award, Wright received a financial gift and additional vacation days. While he appreciates the recognition, he shies away from the attention and remains focused on doing his job as he has always done it.
"The best part is to see people getting better," said Wright. "They're better when they leave; they're not nervous and they understand what's happening. That's gratifying."
Wright's eight-year old daughter, Julia, spread her dad's news to her teacher and friends and wants to bring his picture to school. "She's proud," said Wright. Julia loves to hear stories about his work.
"I'm friends with all the patients," he tells his daughter. "People are sick and sometimes confused. Even if they're mad, they're mad at the situation, not me."
Wright tries to teach his daughter the same principles he's learned in the emergency department. Slow down, listen, make a joke, help people, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
With recent frigid temperatures and snow measured in feet instead of inches, emergency departments in cold weather areas of the country are seeing an increasing number of people with frostbite.
Most people bundle up well for winter activities, but what happens when you are unexpectedly facing the bitter cold for prolonged time periods such as if the train is running late and you are waiting for it outdoors, or if your car breaks down? In freezing weather, it is important to be prepared at all times.
Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures kill exposed skin tissue and most noticeably affects fingers, toes, ears, nose, cheeks and chin.
The signs and symptoms start with cold skin and a prickly feeling in the affected area. That may then progress to numbness. Skin may turn red, white, bluish-white, or yellowish-white in color and may become hard or waxy in appearance.
Blistering may occur after rewarming. Superficial frostbite may turn the skin blue and blister up to 24 hours after rewarming. With deep frostbite, the skin may blister up to 48 hours after rewarming. Multiple layers of skin may be damaged, and the condition can cause permanent damage. See a doctor immediately if skin is damaged, blue, or blistered, or if there is numbness after rewarming.
How to avoid frostbite:
• Limit your time outdoors. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can occur in 30 minutes. In -10 below temperatures, it can occur in less than 10 minutes depending on wind chill.
• Dress in loose warm clothing. Air trapped between layers of clothing acts as insulation. Mittens are better than gloves. Be sure to cover ears with a hat or headband. Wear socks and sock liners that fit properly.
• If you are going to be outdoors, don't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Both contribute to frostbite.
• Change out of wet clothing immediately.
• Actively rewarm yourself with a warm, not hot, bath and drink a hot beverage such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate. There may be some pain associated with rewarming as well. This should pass within 30 minutes.
• Eat well and hydrate appropriately.
• Keep moving. Exercise gets blood flow to the extremities.
• Plan well for traveling in your car. Have appropriate clothing (hats, gloves, winter coat) in your car in case you get stranded. Carry extra blankets, water and emergency supplies in the trunk.
--Angelo Pucillo, PA-C, is the assistant chief physician assistant in the emergency department at Hallmark Health System.
The flu is here. It is nasty and you should be doing everything you can to avoid it.
That is the message from Gary Pransky, MD, a family medicine physician who practices at Hallmark Health Medical Associates in Winthrop. "Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do to prevent the flu, or at least lessen its impact, is to receive a flu vaccination," said Dr. Pransky. "It is not too late to get the shot, as we still have at least a month of heavy flu season."
The most common reason people elect not to get the vaccine is the misconception that it can actually give a person the flu. "That is incorrect," said Dr. Pransky. "The flu vaccine is a 'dead' vaccine, meaning it has no live influenza components, and therefore cannot give someone the flu."
In addition to receiving the vaccination, people should adhere to strict hand-washing routines during flu season, get plenty of rest and exercise, eat a healthy diet and try to avoid stress. "Hand washing is effective when done with soap and water for at least 20 seconds," explained Dr. Pransky. "Hand sanitizers also work well."
If you do end up with the flu, you can do a few things to lessen its impact. "A medication called Tamiflu can help with the symptoms," said Dr. Pransky. "The trick is that you need to take it within 48 hours of showing flu symptoms." The symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and cough. "Your physician can run a quick test to tell for sure if you have the flu, which is why it is important to contact your doctor as soon as symptoms begin to set in."
If you miss the 48-hour window, there are still some things you can do to feel better. "Rest and plenty of fluids can help. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications can also help, but you should avoid taking aspirin," added Dr. Pransky. "And we shouldn't dismiss the power of chicken soup and hot fluids in general, as they can help to move the secretions through your system."
Dr. Pransky also reminds us that the flu can be deadly and should not be taken lightly. "It is estimated that in the United States, 5 to 20% of the population gets the flu each year on average and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Flu is easily spread by coughing and sneezing and individuals are typically contagious for about one week and 24 hours after their fever is gone," he said. "It is crucial to stay home. Don't go to work or school if you suspect that you have the flu. It is too dangerous for people who are at heightened risk, including children under age 2, women who are pregnant or within two weeks postpartum, people on aspirin therapy or who are immune-suppressed, the elderly or those who have chronic diseases."
"I can't stress the importance of getting a flu vaccination," said Dr. Pransky. "There is still time to vaccinate and there is still plenty of vaccine. I would also recommend a pneumonia shot for seniors and those with chronic illness."
Dr. Pransky is a family medicine physician at Hallmark Health Medical Associates, located at 52 Crest Ave.in Winthrop. He can be reached at 617-846-8622.
Twenty-one physicians affiliated with Hallmark Health System have been named Top Doctors in the Boston Area according to Boston Consumers' CHECKBOOK magazine and www.checkbook.org . The magazine lists local physicians practicing in 38 specialty fields most frequently recommended in a survey of other doctors.
CHECKBOOK surveyed all actively practicing doctors in the Boston area. Each surveyed doctor was asked to identify physicians he or she "would consider most desirable for care of a loved one." Doctors could recommend one or two specialists in each of the 38 specialty fields. CHECKBOOK reports which physicians were recommended most often, and how many doctors recommended each physician specialist. CHECKBOOK includes only those doctors mentioned enough times by other physicians to be statistically significant.
The Hallmark Health physicians listed are:
Christian Andersen – Orthopedic Surgery
Dennis Begos – Colon & Rectal Surgery
David Bowling – Otolaryngology
Edward Butler – Infectious Disease
Laurence Conway – Cardiology
Anthony Dash – Nephrology
Martha Dyer – Urology
David Gendelman – Ophthalmology
Donald Grande – Dermatology
Suzanne Grevelink – Dermatology
Mark Iafrati – Vascular Surgery
Nasima Khatoon – Hematology/Oncology
Steven Kornbleuth – Dermatology
Robert Pastan – Rheumatology
Khether Raby – Cardiology
David Riester – Allergy/Immunology
David Samenuk – Cardiology
Coralli So – Interventional Radiology
Jeffrey Sobell – Dermatology
Peter Tiffany – Urology
Wayne Wivell – Radiology
# # #
About Hallmark Health
Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford; Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose; Hallmark Health Hematology and Oncology Center, Stoneham; The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham; Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading; Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice; Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford and Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology and the Joslin Diabetes Center for diabetes care.
Managing your diabetes during New England winters can be full of challenges such as the frigid weather, holiday stress and the cold and flu season. Taking certain precautions at this time of year can help individuals with diabetes stay safe and healthy.
Mike Cheney, NP, a nurse practitioner at the Joslin Diabetes Affiliate and Endocrine Center at Hallmark Health, offered the following tips.
Increased risks for those with diabetes
Winter-time weight gain and inactivity can be added risk factors for patients with diabetes. "There are parties and festivities with all kinds of tempting treats, and sometimes we may not pay as much attention to what we are eating and drinking as we normally do," said Cheney. "Coming off of the winter holidays we sometimes see our patients struggling with their weight."
Cheney points out that talking with your physician and working with your dietitian can help keep you on track and offers the following suggestions to keep your body moving.
• Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
• Find a walking program at a local mall or shopping center.
• Try activities you can do at home, such as stretching.
• This might be the right time to use that gym membership or even work with a personal trainer (programs such as the Hallmark Health System Center for Weight Management and Weight Loss Surgery offer discounted rates to personal trainers).
"Just remember to consult with your physician before you begin any exercise program," reminded Cheney.
Illness impacts blood sugar levels
When you are sick with flu, cold, respiratory infection and other common winter illnesses your blood sugar levels can be affected. You will need to monitor your levels more frequently, and let your provider know of any changes. Cheney suggests the following.
• Prevention is the best medicine
• Get an annual flu shot – its not too late!
• Practice good hand hygiene
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when sneezing and coughing
The cold's affect on circulation
One of the complications of diabetes is that temperature sensation in your legs and feet can be affected. "We see people trying warm up with hot water bottles or electric blankets. This can result in burns. Also, if you are stepping into a hot bath to warm up, be sure to test the water with your hands first to get a true gauge of the water temperature."
"When you're going outside, the best way to stay warm is to dress in layers and to make sure that your head, hands and feet are well protected," said Cheney. "But individuals with diabetes need to think about other important items being kept warm as well. Your insulin, glucose meter, and test strips are sensitive to the cold. Be sure not to leave them in your car or exposed to the cold for long periods of time as their effectiveness can be diminished."
Hydrate and Moisturize
Dry winter air can lead to dehydration, which can raise blood glucose levels and dry out skin. "During the cold weather months many people don't realize just how much water they lose over the course of a day," said Cheney. "Remember to drink fluids and to use a thick moisturizer regularly on your skin (thin ones tend to evaporate quickly). Take good care of your feet, but don't use moisturizer between your toes, as it could lead to fungal growth."
"The most important thing anyone, with or without diabetes, can do to improve their health is to quit smoking if you still smoke," added Cheney. "Beyond that, individuals with diabetes should work closely with their doctors and health team, be conscious of their food choices, and try to lead an active lifestyle."
The Joslin Diabetes Affiliate and Endocrine Program at Hallmark Health offers the latest advances for treating diabetes and its complications as well as patient education and support services. Hallmark Health is one of 47 national and two international Affiliate locations and the only Joslin Affiliate in Boston's northern suburbs.
News & Events
Wednesday, March 04 2015 14:40