St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Celebrates 10 years of Cancer Program

This October, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea’s cancer program is celebrating ten years of providing essential, compassionate care.

“When I’m speaking to donors and community members, one of the most commonly talked about services is our cancer program,” said Nancy Graebner, President, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. “The Cancer Center and our comprehensive cancer services are something so many in our community are proud of and grateful to have so close to home.”

When it comes to cancer, we know the facts. More than 1.8 million cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2020. Nationally, overall cancer incidence is anticipated to grow 11 percent over the next five years, and 21.3 percent over ten years. In the United States, 39 percent of women and 38 percent of men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, the five-year survival rate for all cancers combined has increased substantially since the early 1960s.

“When the hospital first opened, we provided some care for those with cancer through surgical oncology,” Graebner said. “Yet, the hospital and our community recognized the need for more oncology services, and we began a formal cancer program in 2010 with medical oncology and infusion services.”

At that time, the infusion program only had two nurses, one physician, one nurse practitioner and one medical assistant. There were only a few infusion bays and the program was located inside the hospital’s Professional Office Building. Chemotherapy drugs were mixed in Canton and brought to Chelsea each of the three days infusion treatments were offered.

Much has changed since those early days. The cancer program has grown to provide infusion treatments five days a week, offer radiation oncology, include many more nurses, physicians and staff and the program is much more comprehensive. Services now include:

  • Medical oncology
  • Radiation oncology
  • Surgical oncology
  • Nurse navigation
  • Social work
  • Spiritual care
  • Nutrition
  • High risk and genetic testing
  • Support groups

Much of this growth was possible with the opening of the Cancer Center in 2014. A $6 million dollar fundraising campaign made the Cancer Center a reality – allowing further expansion of cancer services with a state-of-the-art cancer center built to maximize healing with scenic views, natural light and soothing décor. The Cancer Center includes more treatment bays and private treatment rooms large enough for loved ones to be near-by. Chemotherapy mixtures are now made inside hospital walls, increasing efficiency and decreasing a patient’s wait time. In addition, radiation oncology services came to Chelsea so patients no longer needed to drive to Ann Arbor or other communities for radiation.

“It is an honor to work in Chelsea and to have been a part of the start up of the new Cancer Center,” said Shirley Boorom, RN, Nurse Coordinator, Oncology Infusion Center, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. “We are blessed to have devoted, caring and professional staff. The patients were so excited and thankful to have a Cancer Center so close to home and not have to drive so far. The community support continues to be unbelievable and inspiring.”

Engaged donors and patients set a vision of comfort and service for the Cancer Center that was carried out through a beautiful lobby featuring a fireplace, current magazines, coffee, water, fresh fruit, carefully selected artwork, iPads, breakfast and lunch deliveries upon request and heated chairs. Patients and visitors are also greeted by a concierge who ensures flesh flowers, fruit and special gift bags are always available. The concierge also helps with unexpected needs – assisting with child care coordination, offering transportation options, holding an umbrella and more as they walk each patient through the unique journey.

“It’s the little touches that make a true difference,” Graebner said.

While St. Joe’s Chelsea is certainly proud to have a growing cancer program and provide this care close to home, it’s the quality of care that the organization is most proud of. The Cancer Center continuously receives high patient safety and satisfaction scores, and has nurses who are all chemotherapy certified. The program continues to evolve – changing processes and services to meet patient needs. One example is the launch of lab services in the cancer center, enabling patients an easy one-stop-option for blood draws and treatment.

“As a nurse who has worked at Chelsea since 1994 and lived in this community since 1985, it was so exciting for the hospital to have their own cancer and infusion center,” said Johanna Kruse, RN, BSN, OCN, Nurse, Infusion Center, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. I have been part of this from the beginning and it is an honor to watch it grow and become what it is today.”

Cancer Center Fast Facts:

  • 80 patients per day; 20,800 visits per year
  • 30 radiation oncology visits per day; 8,000 per year
  • 30 infusion treatments per day; 8,000 per year
  • More than 100 clinical trials available at any time
  • Program has grown from 2,500 patient visits in fiscal year 2015 to 8,000 in fiscal year 2020
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Choosing the Health Savings Medical Plan + HSA Helps You Save Now and For the Future

During this year’s open enrollment period, Oct. 22– Nov. 12, you have the opportunity to choose a medical benefits plan. The Health Savings medical plan is an account-based plan with a colleague-owned account designed to put you in charge of how you spend and save your health care dollars.  

The unique feature of this plan is that you have an opportunity to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) to save for current or future health care expenses. 

About HSAs 

An HSA is a tax-advantaged account that belongs to you. HSAs are similar to retirement accounts in that they roll over year-to-year, they are portable when you move jobs or retire, the balance can be invested in mutual funds, and there are survivor benefits. The additional benefit of an HSA is that you can use the funds prior to retirement for eligible medical expenses. 

It’s the only vehicle under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code that offers a triple tax advantage: 

  • Your contributions are tax-free (May be subject to state taxation) 
  • Withdrawals for qualified health care expenses are tax-free 
  • Interest and investment earnings, if applicable, grow tax-free 

The Trinity Health HSA is administered by Health Equity, the nation’s oldest and largest administrator of these types of accounts. 

So, how exactly does the HSA work? 

When you enroll in the Health Savings Plan and open an HSA during open enrollment, you can choose to make contributions three ways: 

  • Through pre-tax* payroll deductions that will be deducted per pay period (*May be subject to state taxation) 
  • Contributing online via a member portal  
  • Sending your contribution directly to Health Equity 

In addition, Trinity Health will make a contribution to your HSA account. The amount varies based on the coverage level you elect and will be pro-rated if you elect mid-year due to a qualified status change or because you are newly eligible. Once the funds are deposited into your HSA, they are yours.   

Note that both employer and employee contributions can be used only when they are available in your account; you will not have the ability to borrow forward on future contributions. 

For more information about the HSA, please visit the HR4U colleague portal at https://hr4u.trinity-health.org

Once logged into HR4U, you can also chat live with an HR representative Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET. For your convenience, HR representatives will also be available on two Saturdays during open enrollment, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7.] 

Important: If you enroll in the Health Savings medical plan, you are not eligible for the Health Care FSA. The Health Savings Account (HSA) covers similar services as the HCFSA, with the added benefit of being able to rollover any unused money in your account.   

St. Mary Mercy Livonia to Host Hospital Celebration Week, October 26 – 30

LIVONIA – This year has brought many extraordinary challenges for our staff. From the rollout of a new electronic medical record system, to the arrival of COVID-19, our colleagues have met these challenges with strength and conviction. We are so proud of the team here at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, and have been planning ways to show our appreciation.

From October 26 – 30, we will host a variety of events to celebrate our staff. These include food trucks, an ice cream social, discounts on coffee, and the distribution of free shirts to staff. It’s our small way of thanking colleagues for the resilience and dedication they have displayed this year.

Please enjoy these celebrations, while maintaining appropriate COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing and masks. A printable version of the flyer is available here.

Courtyard East Update for Week of October 19, 2020

We are pleased to share regular updates on the renovations and enhancements taking place on the Courtyard East Short Stay Unit. We continue to make progress on enhancing patient rooms – three more rooms were updated this week and additional ones have been started. Patient room upgrades include new light fixtures, recliners and window blinds, fresh paint and more.  

Early this week, we selected the new artwork for patient rooms and unit. Each piece has a Michigan nature theme and go well with the freshly painted sage green and cream-colored walls. Enjoy a sneak peak of the artwork attached.

Finally, we wish to share with you the words of a surgical patient who recently stayed with us. It truly takes a full team to care for patients and we are proud to work alongside some of the best and most compassionate caregivers, physicians and staff.

I was in your Surgery Center October 1-2, 2020 for a Holep operation by Dr. Dauw. During my recovery time in room 151, I experienced exceptional care from your and Dr. Dauw’s staffs. I hesitate to mention names for fear of missing someone but feel I need to mention as many as I can remember for their exceptional care.

Registration: Miki; Intake nurse: Alison; Dr. Dauw’s PAs: Alex, Lisa and Brittany; RNs: Megan, Anita, Sophie; MAs: Mackenzie, Lorrie and Michelle; many thanks to Dr. Dauw and his anesthesiologist (who introduced himself but my brain went to sleep too soon to remember) as I’m recovering well.

I really hope I didn’t miss anyone as everyone worked very hard and cared for me doing their best. Each time, when monitoring my progress and/or clean up, each PA or RN always asked permission. The intense work of exchanging fluid and emptying the urine bag was not only frequent but not easy since the drain tube was so small that it took many minutes, more than a dozen times each day and night to empty. Many thanks, especially to them for a super great job.

An additional “shout out” to the cooks who prepared my delicious salmon dinner, October 1, it was delicious.

During my discharge, my wife and I were impressed with the park-like setting at the entrance. What a great place to relax and enjoy.

I have already sung your praises here and with other people I have talked with.

Patients Hospitalized Near Election Day May Still Be Able to Vote

The hospital is not likely a place patients want to be, especially during an important election. At Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and Mercy Health, we want to do everything possible to make our patients’ stays healing and calm.

For registered voters who unexpectedly find themselves in the hospital near Election Day, there may still be an opportunity to cast a vote, even if they have not applied for an absentee ballot. There is a provision in Michigan law for an EMERGENCY absentee ballot, allowing them the opportunity to make an absentee ballot request if they cannot attend the polls due to:

  • Personal injury or illness
  • A family death or illness that requires you to leave your community for the entire time the polls are open on Election Day (such as a hospitalization)

The emergency must have occurred after 5 p.m. the Friday prior to the election (10/30).

To request an emergency absentee ballot, patients will need to have someone they trust deliver their absentee ballot application to their City or Township clerk’s office before 4 p.m. on Election Day. Completed ballots must be returned to the clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

To learn more, visit the Michigan Secretary of State site here.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Each October, we observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves on the signs of domestic violence. Some studies report that the stressors of the pandemic and increased time at home have led to an increase in domestic violence incidences, including homicides.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some warning signs of an abusive relationship include:

  • Extreme jealousy, especially of time spent away or with others
  • Insults or demeaning comments
  • Pressure to perform sexual acts that a person is uncomfortable with
  • Control over a person’s finances without discussion
  • Intimidation through threatening looks or actions, or weapons such as guns and knives
  • Preventing a person from making their own decisions

To help support victims of domestic violence, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project encourages people to “do #1thing.” For instance, you can choose to speak out when you witness microaggressions, or speak with policymakers on the need to address domestic violence. You can also write letters to local newspapers, teach future generations about the need to treat others with respect, and more. The project aims to create a snowball effect, with the small efforts of many contributing to a reduction in domestic violence. To learn more, visit https://www.dvawareness.org/1thing.

Where Do I Begin….

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

I’ve used this column for months now to encourage you to pay attention to the impact of this pandemic, and to talk about it with coworkers, friends, professionals… whatever works best for you.  I had an experience over the weekend that kind of hit me over the head with the fact that I haven’t really honestly done that myself.  And I think I’ve figured out the problem.  I can’t find the words. So, you know, that makes it hard to talk about it.

I was at a (small, outdoor, appropriately distanced) get-together at a friend’s.  An acquaintance who was there started a conversation with me by asking what it was like coming to the hospital every day, and how we’re being screened.  I told him, and he went on to say that they ask similar questions when he goes to an assisted living facility, and, “of course I’m going to say no to all those questions – I need to get in to see my mom, and get things done.”  I was taken aback, and instantly went from irritated to full-on fighting angry.  My voice got louder as I told him that the idea of anyone answering those questions dishonestly in order to avoid inconvenience was unconscionable (hoping maybe my big words would stifle his ability to argue, I think).  I started to feel surprisingly emotional, and I had to just disengage from the conversation.

Later I was thinking about it and why it upset me so much, ruining the rest of my evening.  I realized that I haven’t actually been able to talk about the pandemic and what I’ve witnessed here at the hospital over the past seven months, because I can’t find the words to describe it.  Truly.  I can probably come up with lots of adjectives – tragic, gruesome, sad, stifling, traumatic – but turning all the adjectives into descriptions of what it’s been like is really difficult.  To some extent I think you have to have seen it, or worked through it, to understand.  I just can’t find the words, or the energy for that matter, to try to help someone understand who hasn’t seen what we’ve seen.  It’s easier to just avoid those conversations, and often those people. 

This is one of many reasons I’m so grateful to have my colleagues to help me process it.  Because you do get it.  And if I can’t come up with descriptors, or paint a picture of a patient’s experience, it’s ok.  If I can’t name the emotions that suddenly well up in the middle of a random conversation, you understand anyway.  Some days I’m actually comforted being at work more than I am at home because I’m surrounded by people who get it, and I don’t have to try to describe it.  Even my therapist has been sitting in her vacation home since March and talking to people remotely… so I talk to her about other things.  It leads me to wonder if we need more chances to do that – talk to each other – in a more formal, facilitated way so that we’re working through the emotions.  It’s not just me, is it?

Anyway… I guess I just want to say that it’s ok right now if you can’t talk about it.  I get it.  We have each other, and we need each other.  Let’s start by embracing that, and eventually, maybe we’ll find words.

Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW is a palliative care social worker at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor

StandOut Pulse Survey Launches October 14 for SJMAA, SJML, & SJMO

ANN ARBOR, LIVINGSTON, OAKLAND – The 2020 Colleague, Physician, and Provider Annual Survey engagement action plan is to work on our culture transformation through actively engaging in StandOut. To support this plan, we are happy to share that we are re-starting the StandOut engagement pulses in October.  The survey will run from October 14 through October 28. 

Enhancements to the StandOut Pulse Survey:
To effectively leverage the results from the recent annual survey, you will notice the inclusion of a few questions in the StandOut Pulse Survey. These questions will help us closely link the annual survey to the StandOut pulse. This will allow colleagues to provide ongoing feedback as we strive to improve the experiences we create every day and cultivate our culture of safety.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • On Wednesday, October 14, eligible colleagues will be invited by email to complete the Pulse survey
  • If not yet utilizing StandOut, colleagues will be invited to
    • take the StandOut assessment first; and then
    • complete the Pulse survey
  • See the job aid for both activities here.
  • Video “What’s In It for Me” Click Here

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and the important role you play in creating an exceptional experience for colleagues and those we serve.

Keep On, Soldier

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

I’m generally not a huge fan of military metaphors… anyone who’s been to my “language” presentation can attest to that.  I’m pretty much a pacifist, in fact, although that could be out of a lack of ever having to be anything else.  I don’t like to talk about “fighting” cancer or the like.  But I still think of you all at the bedside and throughout our health system as soldiers.  This pandemic is like a war, and absolutely everyone is affected by it, but you are the soldiers who are really fighting it for us.  Props to you.

As one of your “medics,” I often worry about the effect on you – frequently the emotional impact is what I worry about the most, but lately there are reports of an increase in the COVID infection rate of health care workers.  So there’s the additional concern of the physical health of my comrades.  Did you know, actually, that in the U.S. and Mexico—which have some of the highest case counts in the world—health care workers represent one in every seven cases of COVID-19?  These two countries account for nearly 85% of all COVID deaths among health care workers in this part of the world.  Pretty shocking.

On the other hand, we’ve done a pretty amazing job of protecting our soldiers’ physical health in our system.  We’ve been diligent with PPE, and even more impressive, with protecting ourselves when we leave work every day and go home, or to the store, or out someplace with friends.  For this reason, we can keep moving forward – carrying our suffering community members to safety, comforting them when they’re alone and their families aren’t allowed to be at bedside, and showing our community what we can really do.  Don’t let the numbers scare you (I am not suggesting you don’t let this virus scare you).  Let the numbers inspire you to keep doing what you know you must:  wearing masks, distancing yourself from others, staying home most of the time, and finding ways to keep yourself centered and healthy, emotionally and physically.

There’s no reason any of us has to be one of those statistics.  While we see spikes in numbers happening here and there, and everyone is a bit nervous about flu season, there is no doubt in my mind that we’ve seen the worst of this.  And at least physically, we’ve come out in rather good shape as a whole.  Psychologically… emotionally… I can’t say yet.  I’m hopeful that there is further recovery to come in those areas, but it will take work.  And we’ll get that done too.

Keep on, soldier.

Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW is a palliative care social worker at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor

R.I.D.E: Learning About Racial Inequality Together

We represent the Respect, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Task Force (R.I.D.E.) here at St. Joe’s Ann Arbor. We’re a group of colleagues who work in many different parts of our ministry. We are committed to shining a light on the rich diversity of experience and background across our workforce and working toward equity for all of our colleagues. We’d like to take a moment to invite you into a respectful conversation about diversity, inclusion, and equity here at St. Joe’s. We welcome your stories about your own experiences with how differences in background, culture, and experience have shaped you or your experience here at St. Joe’s.

One of the topics that our group, like much of our nation, has been talking about for the past few months is the concept of racial inequality in the eyes of the law and the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognize that different folks are at different stages of learning when it comes to systemic racism and how it shapes our lives, so we wanted to provide a little background for the concept of Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is a movement that began in 2012-2014 in response to the deaths of Travon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. It draws strength from non-violent activism and works to “embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.” The purpose of the movement is to draw attention to the inequalities black and brown people face in this country when they come into contact with law enforcement and the justice system. Even though the Black Lives Matter movement is relatively recent, the history of the inequalities faced by black and brown people in this country date back to the inception of our nation.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few recommended resources:

Books:  Ta’Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”

Isabel Wilkerson “Caste: The Origins of our Discontents”

Films: 13th – directed by Ava DuVernay

Videos: Short video about systemic racism https://youtu.be/YrHIQIO_bdQ

In addition, we invite you to participate in the United Way of Washtenaw County’s 21 Day Equity Challenge or the more abbreviated 5 Day Equity Challenge. You can find resources to guide you through examining how racial inequality affects the world around us and challenge your own ideas about race and racism:

Above all, we invite you to listen with an open mind. We live in an increasingly polarized society where groups who think differently often don’t take the time to listen to one another. We’d like to create a little space for listening and recognizing our differences and ultimately recognizing the humanity in all people.

Join us for the RIDE… please contact KLynne.McKinley@stjoeshealth.org to be added to the RIDE group.