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Toby's Take: Caring for the Caregivers

Rejuvenation Station

March 29, 2022

Hi! You made it to my second blog post. Thank you. And thank a doctor today. Today is Doctors’ Day.

We launched this blog so I could tell behind-the-scenes stories at The University of Kansas Health System, why we’re so well-regarded (and ranked No. 1) in Kansas City and the state of Kansas.

  • What healthcare looks like postpandemic.
  • How our reach goes way beyond the heartland with patients from all 50 states and dozens of countries worldwide.
  • Why candy bars can stop people in their tracks.

Um, that last one?

Learning the ropes during a pandemic

I started at the health system in April 2021, a full year after COVID-19 changed the world forever. It was a time when cases and deaths had started to subside, vaccines were becoming more readily available, and the deadly delta and omicron variants were an entire summer away. You could feel things easing up.

Still, work was intense.

My new work friends all knew what they were doing. And I was trying to learn healthcare fast. My goals as the new director of public relations for the health system could stay on the backburner as the rest of the staff focused on either a transition out of this thing, or preparation for the next wave.

Unfortunately, the variant wave happened. And now I was in the trenches with my co-workers.

To be clear, the heroes are those on the clinical side. Doctors, nurses, specialists and all the many people who participate in providing care showed up every day, donned their trusty PPE (what I later learned was “personal protective equipment”) and treated the masses – both COVID patients and all the many, many other patients who still needed care – despite the pandemic. They watched way too many COVID patients die. But most of them they saved, and they simply had to put one foot in front of the other in the withering face of a surge, needing more staff to treat the masses of patients and public discourse over the vaccine getting downright ugly.

This rubbed off on everyone, including where I work in marketing and communications, in housekeeping and dining and in transportation and facilities upkeep. Then along came the candy…

[The members] were desperate to do something. We wanted the Kansas City area to know you good folks in healthcare aren’t alone. – Rev. Adam Hamilton

Church of the Resurrection

Kindness, like sugar, makes life sweeter

The “Rejuvenation Station” cart started rolling in the middle of the surge, filled with candy bars, cookies and chips. The only thing remotely healthy were cans of flavored water. Our nutritionists might not have approved (on paper). But the gesture, made possible by people outside the health system, did wonders.

The idea came from our executives. And a big church. Rev. Adam Hamilton at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, the largest United Methodist Church in the world, told me his members could hardly stand it anymore. They wanted to do something for healthcare workers and contacted all the hospitals in town to see what they needed.

“They were desperate to do something,” Hamilton said. “We wanted the Kansas City area to know you good folks in healthcare aren’t alone.

“We asked, ‘How can we take care of the caregivers?’”

Our executive team also worked to identify big and small things they could do to support the teams doing such amazing work on the front lines. Whoever took the call from Resurrection apparently had a sweet tooth. Together, they concocted a plan to have COR (as the church is known) pay for treats that would go on a cart to be wheeled down the halls of the hospital on our main campus in Kansas City, Kansas. They later visited the Indian Creek, Strawberry Hill and Marillac campuses, and left some snacks at our Westwood campus.

Rick Couldry and Team with the Rejuvenation Station
Rick Couldry, Vice President, Health Professions, shares masked smiles and treats with our dedicated caregivers with the Rejuvenation Station

Call me 'the candy man'

The “Rejuvenation Station” cart started rolling in the middle of the surge, filled with candy bars, cookies and chips. The only thing remotely healthy were cans of flavored water. Our nutritionists might not have approved (on paper). But the gesture, made possible by people outside the health system, did wonders.

So many of my colleagues jumped at the chance to volunteer for a Rejuvenation Station time slot that I had to muscle my way in. My turn came one afternoon with Rick Couldry, our vice president of health professions. He was downright giddy passing out treats.

At one point, I blurted out to a group on rounds, “I know you’re looking at charts, but we have candy!” To my relief, they stopped what they were doing (obviously not critical at that moment) and began checking out the cart.

You know this isn’t about the candy.

In the middle of a long workday, in the middle of another long week, in the middle of a global pandemic none of us could have imagined, someone came along with a treat. And recognized their hard work with a few empty calories.

The Rejuvenation Station cart takes one more spin around the hospital this week. After COVID-19 and the stresses of 2020 and 2021, these must be the healthiest candy bars of all time.

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