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A Spoonful of Good

Cover-Photo-(1).JPG“I was so impressed with one of our support specialists, Charity LaBree,” Martha recalls. “On this particular day, due to multiple call-outs, she was covering three units and managing several curveballs, all the while ensuring she met patients’ needs.” It inspired Martha to present Charity with a special token: an ornamental spoon. That spoon, and others like it, are part of a grassroots initiative at Northern Light Acadia to inspire team member recognition.

That small gesture brought Charity to tears. The idea was born from a program called First Tuesday Talks, an off-the-clock gathering of Acadia staff with the sole purpose of getting to know one another outside of work and building strong relationships. One of the group leaders and director of Innovation, Amanda Sidell, used the brainpower of this Tuesday crowd to garner ideas on how to expand these connections across the hospital and inspire kindness.

“Many units at Acadia have their own recognition boards and celebrations, but we were looking for ways to have staff look beyond their unit and connect with teams in different departments,” explains Amanda. It was then that Shane “Mack” MacPherson, psychiatric technician, offered his handmade spoon keychains, which he later imprinted with a word or phrase that the group agreed embodies a great coworker.

“The idea was to put the qualities that we look for and appreciate in our coworkers on these metal tags,” Mack says as he digs through a pail of his inspired utensil creations. “And when you see that quality, you pass the spoon to them, and you acknowledge what they did. It’s been remarkable.”
A few dozen spoons are in circulation and stamped with words like role model, compassion, leader, laughter, problem solver, and team player. Traveling quickly across the hospital since the initiative began in December, the spoons are inspiring a culture of actively looking for—and naming—the good in others.

Doug Townsend, LCPC, MBA, associate vice president of Adult Services, was surprised how different it felt from other forms of recognition. Before Martha presented her problem solver spoon to Charity, she received it from Doug for her elegant problem solving of a safety issue. “I think the acknowledgment is more meaningful because I could give Martha something tangible for her efforts.” He adds, “What I especially like about this program is that Martha then became tasked with looking out for a problem solver to recognize with her spoon.”  

The spoons are still a new idea, but it’s obvious the program is reinforcing a basic need all people have: to be seen and appreciated. “Before patient care comes staff care, which means taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other so that we are the absolute best team that we can be,” Mack says.Martha echoes that sentiment, “When we take the time to notice excellence, employees feel valued knowing that their work is being recognized. It motivates staff and that positivity carries over to patient care.”

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The Art of Healing

M2-(1).jpgMore than just a hobby, painting is a part of Janet’s recovery from substance use disorder at McAuley Residence, Northern Light Mercy Hospital’s comprehensive housing program for women who are in recovery. Every Friday morning, Janet joins other residents in the McAuley kitchen for instruction with ML Norton, a local artist, and former fashion editor and interior designer. ML became involved with McAuley when she joined the Mercy board in 2013. Since then, she has helped create the McAuley Look Ahead program, an enrichment offering for McAuley residents funded through private support from The Miley Family Foundation, the Tyler Family Foundation, Robert & Leonard Goldberg Foundation, and other individual supporters.

Look Ahead includes regular art lessons at ML’s direction. It’s a way for residents to tap into their creativity to fuel their recovery and prepare them for future success. “They come in here, and maybe it’s been tough, it’s not been a good day,” says ML, who generously volunteers her time each week to work with the residents. “And then suddenly they start creating and realize that it is freedom and that it’s reaching into the best part of themselves. It’s thrilling to see it happen.”

In addition to art lessons, ML also brings residents who have completed phase one of the McAuley program to Macy’s for a “starter” wardrobe to help them launch their lives in a job interview, a new career, or school. Macy’s has been a valued and very involved partner in Look Ahead.

When a new resident arrives at McAuley Residence, ML teaches them how to mix colors and how to use complementary colors. Then they learn from replicating some of ML’s beautiful floral and abstract paintings. “The tricky part of this class is that you’re dealing with people who have turned out some pretty good work,” she says. “And then you’re dealing with somebody who’s just starting and has never had a watercolor brush in their hand. They learn from each other a lot, too.”

For Janet, the art sessions bring back memories of a time when art was an essential part of her life. Before her dependency derailed her momentum, she enjoyed painting and creating glass pottery. She even attended a nationally-accredited craft school in Tennessee. Janet finds comfort in having another opportunity to create, and she enjoys spending time with ML. “ML is amazing,” says Janet. “She has a great eye, and she’s so enthusiastic and makes everyone feel like they’re the best artists in the world. She helps girls feel good about themselves.”

When the paintings are finished, ML gets them framed, and the residents often display them in their apartments or give them away as gifts. Some paintings are featured on cards sold in the Mercy Gift Shop. Proceeds from their sales support McAuley Residence.

Each McAuley resident’s path is unique, and art alone will not help them overcome dependence. While at McAuley, they learn skills to help them manage all aspects of recovery, including spirituality, parenting, education and career development, and financial responsibility. But ML knows that art can play a part in their recovery, and she hopes that the time they spend putting brush to canvas will stay with them for a lifetime. “I hope that they’ll carry on and that they’ll understand that it’s a release into another world that’s safe and filled with beauty,” she says. “It could be knitting; it could be sculpture; it could be music. All of us need to express that. It’s so freeing to get it out. It’s great and everybody has it.”

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Your sneak peek at the 2019 Annual Report

They are some of the people featured in our 2019 Northern Light Health Annual Report. Learn more about the clinical trials and research for Alzheimer’s Disease at Northern Light Acadia Hospital, the innovative programs to tackle the opioid crisis at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Mercy Hospital. You can learn about the work at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital to reduce patient falls, or the fundraisers that donors are spearheading for the Northern Light Health Foundation. This is some of the amazing work that your coworkers are doing across our system. We have a sneak peek of all the stories in this video we like to call our sizzler reel. We hope it inspires you in the same way it inspires us. Stay tuned for the full version of the annual report which is due out later this month.



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Update with Michelle

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Challenge Accepted!

What better way to start the new year than with a challenge to be healthier? Beginning in January, and for the next eight months, Northern Light Sports Health athletic trainers are rolling out an initiative with RSU 22(Hampden), RSU 26(Orono), and the Bangor School Department to help increase healthy habits and exercise in high school and middle school students.

The first is a Healthy Hydration Challenge, where students sign up and receive a packet to track weekly hydration of water, with the overall goal to increase consumption. They will also receive a free water bottle with ounces marked on the side for easy tracking. Each student who successfully tracks for 60/70 days will get a t-shirt. The next challenge concentrates on nutrition, and the series will be completed with summer conditioning.

The series is a part of the medical center’s 2020 Community Health Improvement Plan and leverages athletic trainers, who are already embedded in the schools, to increase healthy habits and physical exercise among our youth.




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Leading the way toward Safer Sleep

It’s easy to understand why parents may not fully know how to keep their infant safe during sleep or are too tired to think about it. That’s one of the reasons why caregivers and staff at Northern Light Health’s birthing hospitals have come together to implement the latest best practices for infant safe sleeping. Their work was recently recognized by the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program when Northern Light Health became the first healthcare system in the country to have all of its birthing hospitals named Gold Safe Sleep Champions.

“The women’s health group is good at working together and standardizing because we all are striving for best practices in everything we do,” says Courtney Cook, director of the Birthing Center at Northern Light Inland Hospital and a member of the team that worked on the Safe Sleep certification. “We’re all moving toward this certification and need to meet the same requirements, so why not do it together?” Courtney notes that several clinical staff, support staff, and leadership at the five hospitals played an important role in the certification.

The team developed a systemwide infant sleep policy, completed sleep audits in each of the birthing units, implemented plans to train staff and educate parents, and met several other criteria required for certification, including making sure that our system is consistently modeling safe sleep behaviors. The team worked together to solve some unique challenges, including how to reduce the number of wearable blankets (“sleep sacks”) lost in the laundry and how to source cribettes to provide to families in need that do not have the means to provide a safe sleep environment at home.

Northern Light Health welcomes more than 3,000 babies to Maine each year at its five birthing hospitals: Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Northern Light Inland Hospital, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital, and Northern Light Mercy Hospital.