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We live united

What did you spend $5 on this week? Was it a snack while filling up the gas tank or maybe a game at the state fair that drew you in (you were this close to getting that stuffed lobster)? We may believe $5 doesn’t go far these days, but the United Way of Eastern Maine can turn that $5 a week into 25 hours of homework help for elementary school-aged kids, back-to-school clothes and supplies for homeless children, and so much more.

EMHS-team-(1).jpgFor nearly 80 years, United Way of Eastern Maine has worked in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo, and Washington counties to help our families, friends, and neighbors in need—that is what inspires EMHS members to give. EMHS employees collectively have been United Way of Eastern Maine’s largest corporate donor for the past two years contributing $175,000 per year and more than $1.75 million over the past ten years.

“United Way of Eastern Maine likely supports a program that will benefit someone you care about. We’re all connected and if you want to support safe, healthy communities, this is a great way to do it,” said Jason Tankel, JD, EMHS vice president, chief compliance and internal audit officer who has overseen the system campaign for the last six years.

Eight of our member organizations participate in this campaign and for Chris Shaw, Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Call Center and Clinical Operations director, this will be his third year helping lead the greatly successful campaign at the medical center. “United Way of Eastern Maine supports programs throughout the five counties our patients and families call home. They can stretch our dollars over many programs, maximizing the benefit to the community. By giving to one, we give to many.”

In this seventh year for Jason and Lorraine Whittaker, administrative assistant III for EMHS Compliance and Internal Audit, who does much of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting to coordinate the campaign, they will transition oversite of the system campaign to Doug Michael, MPH, chief community health and grants officer, and EMHS associate vice president.

Jesse Moriarity, United Way of Eastern Maine’s chief operating officer, loves the passion of our employees and even shows up as a guest at departmental meetings, at our request, telling the stories of those helped by United Way of Eastern Maine. “Whether it be heat or food, child care or shelter, with the support from EMHS employees, we and our partners have helped more than 50,000 of our neighbors, friends, patients, and coworkers find the help that they need each year. You all have been an incredible partner.”

Join us at the campaign kickoff event!
This is truly an inspiring event in which the whole community comes out to celebrate. Kickoff is Friday, September 21 from 11:45 am – 1 pm at Williams Park in Bangor (rain date of Friday, September 28). Lunch will be provided by Hannaford so be sure to RSVP at: or 207.941.2800.
How do I give?
Visit the official EMHS- United Way of Eastern Maine campaign site at:, and select pledge online in the left menu.
Want to get involved? Reach out to your local campaign contact:
Acadia Hospital: Nichole Trainor
VNA Home Health Hospice: Linda Neleski
Affiliated Healthcare Systems (AHS): Amelia Langley
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital: Noah Lundy
Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital: Kimberly Bussell
Eastern Maine Medical Center: Chris Shaw
Maine Coast Memorial Hospital: Kathleen Smith
EMHS Home Office: Doug Michael/Jason Tankel

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A boat ride, a bucket list, and so much more

Gail Gordon smiled from ear to ear as the boat cut a big wake through the waves of Kezar Lake in the western town of Lovell, Maine. She was flanked by two of the people she cares most about in this world—her son, Derek, and Rosa, her partner of 14 years. Gail just turned 58 on July 5, and despite living her life in Maine, has never been in a boat on any one of the state’s roughly six thousand lakes and ponds. “I just had never done it before; it was on my bucket list actually,” Gail explained.

Crossing items off her bucket list is a priority for Gail. Four months ago, she learned that her stage four colon cancer had metastasized to her lungs and that treatment was no longer an option. She entered hospice care with VNA Home Health Hospice and focused on living her life as well as she can with the time she has left.

Gail shared, "It’s been an amazing experience. People laugh when I tell them, but when they asked me how the VNA services are, I say I would highly recommend it.” She feels this way because her care workers at VNA have helped her focus on what’s important. They have gone above and beyond what she ever expected. 

file1-1.jpegLiz Patterson, RN, is the case manager for VNA Home Health Hospice who was assigned to Gail. Gail said she mentioned in casual conversation with Liz that she wanted to go on a boat ride, not ever knowing that Liz had a camp on a lake, and a boat. "These nurses do it all out of their heart and compassion," said Gail.

Liz sought permission to take Gail on the boat ride and once she got the green light from VNA, she and Gail started making plans. They decided that the boat ride would happen on the last Saturday in June. Gail took Rosa with her down to Liz’s camp, and after introductions and a brief tour around the property, they headed down to the shorefront and gave Gail her choice of boats—a pontoon boat, or a speedboat. Gail thought her aches and pains would be too hard to handle on the speedboat, so she opted for the pontoon boat instead.

“It was beautiful, and we all just sat and talked about the weather, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, what’s in the news. It wasn’t like Liz was my nurse. It was just like a bunch of us out on a pontoon boat enjoying the afternoon,” Gail said.

file-28-(3).jpegGail was having so much fun that Liz wanted to make her one final offer—to try out the speedboat. Derek and Rosa convinced Gail to go for a spin, telling her they could always turn back if it became too much.

Gail never asked to turn back. At first, she sat in the back of the boat, and then she sat in the bow with Liz. Gail may have put “boat ride on a lake” on her bucket list, but really what she was looking for, and what Liz gave her, was much more than that.“We couldn’t hear each other talk because of the wake of the waves. All we did was laugh. It was fun, and I didn’t even think for a minute that I was sick; that was the best part of it.”

Editor’s Note: Gail Gordon passed away at her home on August 16 with her family present. A celebration of her life was held on August 26 in Hiram, Maine.

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More Resources for Staff, Better Care for Patients

GettyImages-915090424.jpgBeing in the hospital is stressful and for many of our patients, it’s the transition to home and aftercare that gives pause. In the hospital, there’s someone by your side every day helping you understand what’s happening, why, and what you can expect next. The role of the inpatient care management team is to make the transition home easier, and their job starts as soon as a patient checks in. Care management at EMHS is evolving to ensure that all of our patients receive the right level of care and support.

The new care management model relies on EMHS as a truly integrated system, showing patients and their families just how connected we are, with how smoothly they can navigate from inpatient to outpatient care, and meet their personal goals. “It’s really exciting to be a part of a group like this. The blessing is that we’re in a healthcare system with so much to offer, not just great inpatient and ambulatory care, but great skilled nursing services, physical therapy, and homecare. We have the seeds planted for everything it takes to make our patients successful; we just needed to learn how to leverage that together,” said Beth Rolfe, RN, NE, BC, EMHS interim vice president of Integrated Care Management, and VNA Home Health Hospice vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services.

The group Beth refers to includes team members from every member organization, working together to look for a solution from a system perspective rather than as individual organizations. “Early on we identified core values that would help us bring together our diverse organizations and focus on what’s best for our patients. It’s a lot of work, sometimes, to set aside how you’ve always done something and be open to something new, but as a team we were able to keep coming back to what mattered: the patients and their families receiving the support and care they need and deserve.”

One big change was recognizing that not all patients require the same level of hands-on assistance when it comes to discharge planning. “Part of this is really ensuring that staff are working to the top of their license, we want to ensure that we have the right people doing the right tasks and that our patients with complex care needs—during and after their stay—are set up for success,” said Beth.

A change that will alleviate some of the staffing issues that we’ve faced in the past, ensuring clinical staff and social workers are focused where they are needed, is the creation of the integrated care management resource center. Comprised of licensed and non-licensed associates, the resource center is staffed 12 hours a day, seven days a week and supports all of our member organizations. The new resource center and longer hours increases access for patients and allows them to go home faster.

Through the resource center, care assistants will continue to provide support for non-complex patients. Bedside nurses will provide a consult to the resource center, and staff will provide clinical and resource support for non-complex cases. This could be something like ensuring that patients have transportation home, if their family is unavailable, or ensuring that their primary care follow-up appointment is set up before they leave the hospital.

Licensed personnel at the resource center including registered nurses and licensed clinical social workers will be staffed at all times. They will assist in more complex cases where a care manager or social worker is needed, but there isn’t staff available at the member organization. For smaller facilities, this will alleviate the burden on staff to feel they always need to be available. For patients, it means they will be able to leave the hospital sooner and improving the patient experience. Truly a win-win for staff and patients.