Remarkable Colleagues: Environmental Services Works Behind the Scenes for Patient and Colleague Safety


Environmental Services worker Linda Mimms wears full protective equipment in an ED room at Mercy Health Muskegon.

Now more than ever, maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness throughout patient-care facilities is crucial.

The colleagues responsible for this enormous task are members of Environmental Services (EVS). These days, environmental services workers approach their jobs as if every patient has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of where the EVS team is cleaning. This vital service helps to create safe surroundings for patients and medical staff.

EVS workers continue to clean rooms of non-COVID patients but do not clean patient rooms daily on COVID-19 floors. At this time, nurses are taking on that responsibility.

However, when COVID patients are discharged from the hospital, EVS workers thoroughly clean those rooms to prepare them for future patients and the clinical staff that serves them.

EVS workers, too, are health care heroes.

Dedicated and Hardworking

EVS teams also work 24/7 across Saint Joseph Mercy Health System facilities in Southeast Michigan — one of the nation’s hotspots for COVID-19.

They have stepped up to do what is needed for patients, regardless of this being a scary time for many health care workers.


Oakland EVS workers at a shift change (l-r) Susan Romaya, Jared Barnett, Michael Keyes, Tamyka Trumbo, Arianna Conley, Eugene Bradford, Egda Morales and Bailey Janka

“These folks didn’t hesitate,” said John Miller, Environmental Services director at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. “The team asked good questions, and once we trained everyone on the new PPE requirements and additional cleaning protocols we were providing, they jumped right in. Day in and day out, they show up to do their jobs. They know that patients are very sick and need our assistance.”

EVS colleagues “truly live our organization’s values,” John said.

We thank all of the EVS workers who are working tirelessly to keep patient-care facilities safe by destroying this deadly virus. You are not forgotten.

Calm, Cool and Collected

Soon after the first COVID-19 patients were diagnosed in Michigan, Linda Mimms stepped up by volunteering to work all of her shifts in Pod E in the Emergency Department at Mercy Health Muskegon. Pod E is where all patients with respiratory symptoms are initially cared for, including those with COVID-19.

“In the beginning, a lot of our staff were pretty anxious about working there,” shared Jody Woods, Environmental Services manager, Mercy Health Muskegon.

“When I went to thank Linda for volunteering, she said to me, ‘We’re going to do what we have to do, and it’s all about making sure our patients are taken care of.’ Linda is a direct example of an owner’s mind and a servant’s heart,” added Jody.

On the job for about a year, Linda is both a team leader and colleague trainer. When the ED needs additional help, other team members are willing to join her. She sets a great example and is a natural-born leader, said Jody.

“I thank Linda every day for the work she does,” said Sharon Stiff, Linda’s supervisor. “Linda is positive and compassionate — a role model for others. She is a Christian who brings her faith to work with her.”

As with so many other health care teams working behind the scenes, the EVS teams in West Michigan working around the clock to do their part during this COVID-19 pandemic.


Slowing Down to Appreciate What Matters Most

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

I’m doing a lot of thinking lately about lessons we might learn from this pandemic. I’m not someone who necessarily thinks that everything happens for a reason, but I do think there are lessons to be learned from every difficult experience. What is unusual about this one is that there may be lessons that we all need to learn collectively. It’s not often that almost everyone in the world – even just in this country – faces the same hardship.

I was talking with a patient who was here for several days recently, who is facing a new incurable cancer. She remarked how the need to stay home and “shelter in place” forces all of us to slow down. In the midst of the most difficult time in her life, she is noticing the emergence of spring through her hospital window, the pleasure of sitting quietly for an afternoon, and the pure joy of a conversation about nothing with her children over FaceTime.

So much of our lives in this culture is about distraction, and I am as guilty as anyone of moving constantly and always having to be entertained. I don’t see that changing completely, but I do think that having to spend my non-work hours in my home is helping me to look around a little more and slow my roll. I started doing yoga again as I’ve been meaning to do for years. That alone has done a lot to help me cope with this situation in a calm and intentional way.

Even now, writing this, I am in the midst of the calm before the storm. I see the gray, puffy clouds gathering over the COVID units and I wonder how long before they let loose. By the time you read this, they likely already have. At times I’m frustrated because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to be helpful, as I watch my colleagues on the front lines. But this gathering storm has brought me back to the keyboard and to writing – something I have always loved, but had stopped doing.

What is it that you’ve left behind over the years that you might pick up again… something that helps you feel calmer, and grounded? Now is your chance; don’t miss this opportunity. Before we hurry to get things back to “normal” when this is over, let’s slow down and think about what is truly worth keeping, and what we might leave behind for good. We have a chance make new and intentional choices about how we spend our time and money going forward, and I’m going to try my best to do just that.

Let each of us accept the challenge and come out the other end a better person – a more intentional one. I’m eager to see the better St. Joe’s that we will have all contributed to creating out of this crisis.

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


Parade of Lights Dazzle SJMAA Staff

fire dept.

More than 50 emergency vehicles including firetrucks, police and more provided an inspiring show of support and solidarity with the hard working colleagues of St. Joe’s Ann Arbor who enjoyed the parade. Many of the emergency crews offered their thanks and words of encouragement as they rolled through our campus. Many thanks to our security crew and all the department members who gave their time to brighten the night for so many.

Watch Video: Click here.
For a complete list of participating public safety departments, click here.

Empathy Overload: Managing the Emotional Impact of Covid-19 on Caregivers

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW

I am what is called an empath. This leads me to feel empathy so naturally that I mirror others’ emotions, and I even feel them in my body. This in itself isn’t abnormal or unhealthy, but if I don’t practice letting go of those emotions, I will carry them with me and they will make me sick. This is what I’m calling empathy overload, and it’s certainly something I don’t need right now.

I imagine a lot of you feel the same, at least to some degree. Watching our colleagues carry the burden of caring for the victims of this pandemic day after day makes my heart hurt. This kind of empathy is what led me to be a social worker, but it’s also something I have to learn to manage. I often compare this pandemic to a war, and I feel like a medic – trying to care for those on the front lines, and often feeling like I’m not helping enough. Now more than ever it is critical for all of us to manage the emotional impact of this work: social workers, nurses, PCTs, respiratory therapists. All of us.

Thankfully there are resources being offered up from all directions because we are all fighting in this war together.

I recently started a program called “Yoga for Empaths” through a website called Daily OM. This is another online resource that offers programs for all kinds of needs, and that allows you to decide what you pay for a class if you sign up for one. Along with the class you have the option of receiving inspirational e-mails, articles on wellness, etc. My class offers not only yoga, but journaling exercises, and even recipes. Many are fitness related, but many go well beyond.

For those who prefer religious meditations, the Catholic Health Association has a number of short meditations on YouTube that are specific to health care workers. You can practice these non-denominational meditations almost anywhere, anytime in your day when you start to feel overloaded, whether with empathy, anxiety, or fear.

Trinity Health offers free tools and resources through Carebridge, our Employee Assistance Program, at no cost to support you and your loved ones (dependents, including college students, spouses and anyone living in your household). Carebridge has recently launched several new opportunities, including weekly online “stress check-ins” to assist health care workers. View the detailed list of resources and instructions for registration.

The point is not that yoga, and writing, and eating well are going to get me through this unscathed. The point is that I have to be intentional and active in managing the toll this pandemic is taking on me psychologically. And in turn I hope to be able to help others do the same.

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

Red Cross Seeking Plasma Donations from Recovered COVID-19 Patients to Help Others

The COVID crisis has everyone looking for opportunities to “make a difference” or “take control” or “help someone.”  For patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered, one way to make an immediate impact is through Convalescent Plasma Donation.

The American Red Cross is seeking people who are fully recovered from COVID-19 and may be able to donate plasma to help current patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a health care provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.

People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients seriously ill with COVID-19. Historically, convalescent plasma has been used as a potentially lifesaving treatment when new diseases or infections develop quickly, and no treatments or vaccines were available yet. The Red Cross has been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help identify prospective donors and manage the distribution of these products to hospitals treating patients in need.

If you’re fully recovered from a verified coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis, please go to  and click on “potential donor and fully recovered from COVID” to register.

The Red Cross website describes all of the safety precautions they have in place to assure that plasma donation is safe.

Covid-19 Update: Brighton and Canton Infusion Services Consolidate to Ann Arbor, Chelsea Hospitals

ANN ARBOR – As we work together to respond to COVID-19, it is necessary to adjust cancer treatment resources and operations to protect patients and continue providing effective care. Following are key changes now under way for the cancer centers at St. Joe’s Brighton, Canton, Ann Arbor and Chelsea locations:

  • Infusion treatments have been placed on a two- to three-week delay to allow many cancer patients to “stay at home” and reduce the immunosuppressive impact of treatment throughout the expected increase in COVID patients.
  • Infusion services will be consolidated to our Ann Arbor and Chelsea cancer treatment centers. Canton and Brighton Infusion center and cancer lab are closed effective March 30.
  • Radiation Oncology Services will continue at all cancer centers until April 3. Starting tomorrow, however, no patients will receive radiation at the Brighton Cancer Center.
  • Radiation Oncology is utilizing any appropriate opportunities to delay radiation therapy. New treatment starts for appropriate cancers are being implemented.
  • Any non-emergent NON-CANCER patient infusions that typically occur at our infusion centers should be delayed as long as possible to reduce the possible exposure of the vulnerable cancer patients who must continue their treatments.

As this situation continues to rapidly evolve, we will remain agile in our COVID responses and focused on providing remarkable patient care while working to safeguard colleagues. Please look for ongoing updates on this changing situation.

See Cancer Center Consolidation FAQs


CARES Act Includes Penalty-Free Distributions from Retirement Savings Plans

The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently signed into law earmarks more than $2 trillion to individuals and businesses and provides other financial assistance as compensation for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It includes several changes to retirement accounts/plans.

If you experience adverse financial consequences due to being quarantined, furloughed, laid off or having work hours reduced and/or being unable to work due to a lack of childcare you may request penalty-free distributions of up to $100,000 for qualifying coronavirus-related reasons under the CARES Act. CARES Act distributions are more favorable than hardship withdrawals—because:

  • Tax on the income from the withdrawal may be paid over a three-year period;
  • Participants may repay the amount withdrawn to an eligible retirement plan within three years;
  • Repayments will not be subject to the retirement plan contribution limits; and
  • All contribution sources (other than money purchase pension plan sources) will be available.

We are also reviewing other key changes in the CARES Act — including changes to participant loan provisions and repayment requirements.

For additional information on withdrawal and loan changes under the CARES Act, please log in to the Fidelity website at Go to the Quick Links drop down menu and select “Loans and Withdrawals” for more information. You can also call the Fidelity Retirement Benefits line at 800-343-0860 and ask to speak with someone who can provide information about penalty-free CARES distributions.

We recommend contacting Fidelity on or after Monday, April 6.

Living Freely in Faith: The Liberating Effect of Easter, Passover and Ramadan During Pandemic

Scott Opperman, Director of Mission Integration, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s
Kathy Schell, Director of Mission Integration, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea

  • From Palm Sunday on April 5 through Easter Sunday on April 12, our Western Christian sisters and brothers will commemorate Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection: Liberation from sin and death.
  • From sunset on April 8 through nightfall on April 16, our Jewish sisters and brothers will commemorate Passover: Liberation from Egyptian slavery.
  • Expected to begin on the evening of April 23, our Muslim sisters and brothers will begin a month-long commemoration of Ramadan: Liberation from that which causes distance from Allah.

three-religious-symbolsAll three of these religious observances focus adherents on living freely and fully in right relationship with God and others. From what do we need to liberate ourselves to live freely and fully in right relationship now?  In the topsy-turviness of COVID-19, perhaps for many of us it’s fear. In fact, in David Brook’s recent column in the New York Times, “The Moral Meaning of the Plague,” he said that, “we are all assigned the task of confronting our own fear.”

This is no small task, and there are days when we wonder how we can possibly do so. The Tanakh, Bible, and Qur’ān, however, assure us that God will provide what we need, day by day and sometimes minute by minute: Act out of faith rather than out of fear! (The most frequently repeated message in the Bible is actually “Do not be afraid.”) Our fears will not vanish, but we can live out of our grounding in faith.

We are on a journey in this difficult time. For the Jewish people, Passover was only the beginning of their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  For Jesus’ disciples, his passion, death, and Resurrection was also only the beginning of their mission, as difficult times lay ahead. Likewise, for Muhammad the Prophet and the early Muslims, the first Ramadan was only the beginning of receiving Allah’s revelations, as full reception requires discipline and focus.

Our Mission of healing joins us together, and it means more than ever to both caregivers and care receivers. Like people of faith through the ages, we persevere.

Keeping Ourselves Healthy in Times of Stress

By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW,

As we all adjust to a very different work life, each of us seeks ways to cope with the increased anxiety and stress of this new reality. Some coping methods are healthy, some are not – I can admit to this myself.

There are many good resources out there to help health care workers cope with the COVID-19 crisis, and I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage. Emotional health takes work, and it’s important not to wait until you’re feeling overwhelmed to pay attention to it.

One of the key ingredients to weathering a storm like this one is mindfulness. This means keeping yourself in the current place and time, and avoiding worry about the future – something none of us can predict. It means focusing on the things you can control, and letting go of the things you cannot.

While we might not all be people who regularly meditate or pray, we all have a need to find a quiet space to remain centered and healthy. One meditation app that comes highly recommended by mental health professionals is called Headspace. During this crisis, licensed health care professionals can access the full membership for free (scroll down and provide NPI number; scroll further for general signups without NPI).

There are additional websites and apps, some of which are religion-oriented, and some that focus on practices like yoga. I urge you to find the one that speaks to you, and use it.

Each day I am reminded how lucky I am to work at a health system full of integrity, and full of skilled, compassionate, caring people. That is what will get us through this, as long as we each take the time to care for our own mental health.

Seek each other out, talk when you need to talk, and leave it here when you go home.

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