Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center has been named a “Best Places to Work in Kentucky” for 2017 by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management (KYSHRM). This is Rockcastle Regional’s second year-in-a-row to be named to the list.
“We are incredibly proud to be named a Best Place to Work in Kentucky,” said Carmen Poynter, human resources director at Rockcastle Regional. “Our goal is to create a work environment that attracts talented individuals who choose to be employed at Rockcastle Regional because they believe in our mission and core values. Our employees take great pride in being part of a team that conducts purposeful, worthwhile, and meaningful work.”
Winners from across the state have been selected in three categories: small companies of 15-149 employees, medium companies of 150-499 employees, and large companies consisting of 500 or more employees. Rockcastle Regional was named a winner in the large company category based on its 678 employees. The selection process, managed by Best Companies Group, is based on an assessment of the company’s employee policies and procedures and the results of an internal employee survey.
The competition is a multi-year initiative designed to motivate companies in the Commonwealth to focus, measure, and move their workplace environments toward excellence.
“Engaged employees who are dedicated to the highest standards of job performance are the foundation for great organizations,” said Stephen A. Estes, Rockcastle Regional president and CEO. “For healthcare organizations in particular, studies have shown a correlation in engaged employees and the delivery of higher quality care, resulting in better health outcomes for patients. That’s why we are committed to creating the best workplace for our employees, because ultimately, that’s what’s best for our patients.”
Rockcastle Regional will be recognized at an awards dinner on April 26 where the final winner rankings will be announced.
For more information about career opportunities at Rockcastle Regional, or to apply for a job, please visit www.rockcastleregional.org/careers.
Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center is a not-for-profit community healthcare system that operates an emergency department, outpatient services, a 20-bed acute care hospital, a 99-bed long-term care program for residents dependent upon mechanical ventilation and three rural health clinics. Rockcastle Regional Hospital was established in 1956 and is accredited by the Joint Commission. The organization is an eight-time Kentucky Hospital Association Quality Award Winner, a U.S. News & World Report Best Nursing Home for 2013 and 2014, a winner of the Women’s Choice Award for America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Patient Experience 2013-2017, was recognized with the Women’s Choice Award as an America’s Best Emergency Care Hospital in 2015 and 2016, and a recipient of the 2013 Jackson Healthcare Charitable Services Award. For more information, please visit www.rockcastleregional.org.
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the country. It is the most common cancer worldwide, representing 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses. The most recent study showed that in 2013, Kentucky led the nation with the highest age-adjusted incidence rates for both men and women for lung cancer.
Currently, there are three screening methods for lung cancer: sputum cytology (looks for cancer cells in a patient’s sputum), standard chest x-ray, and low-dose CT scan. While all three methods detect signs of lung cancer, only studies on the low-dose CT scan show an actual reduction in the likelihood of death from the disease. Additionally, the low-dose CT scan poses less risk to the patient than the regular diagnostic chest CT because the radiation exposure is much lower.
In 2011, a study was released by the National Cancer Institute which compared the effectiveness of reducing the mortality rate from lung cancer from standard chest x-rays to that of low-dose CT scans. The decade-long study showed a 20 percent reduction in the death rate from this type of cancer.
Unlike some other cancers, patients with lung cancer typically only begin showing symptoms once the disease is in its later stages and has spread to other areas of the body.
When lung cancer is detected in its earliest stage, the survival rate is 55 percent; however, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed this early. For those found in later stages, the five-year survival rate drops to 4 percent. This is why early-detection lung screening, like low-dose CT, is so important.
In August 2016, Rockcastle Regional Hospital began offering low-dose CT scans. Since then, approximately 300 scans have been performed and 29 have returned test results that are suspicious of cancer. “The national average for suspicious results from low-dose CT scans is 3 percent,” said John Mitchell, director of Radiology at Rockcastle Regional. In this community, we are nearing triple that at 10 percent.
While low-dose CT scan is an excellent screening tool, it is not recommended for everyone. Those who are candidates for this test must meet all of the following “high-risk” criteria:
-55-77 years of age
-30 pack-year history of smoking. (Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked. Example: 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
-Are a current smoker or have quit within the last 15 years.
If you think you are a candidate for this screening, it is important to note that some insurance plans may not cover this test. It is best to check with your insurance plan for coverage of the screening and for any additional procedures, as there may be other costs associated even if the actual screening is free. The American Lung Association offers a checklist of questions to ask your insurance provider when calling to inquire about the screening. Visit lung.org to learn more.
Hospice Care Plus presented it’s prestigious Above and Beyond Award at its 2016 annual dinner in December. The awards are given each year to civic groups, non-profits, churches, businesses, or other organizations that go to great lengths to support the mission of Hospice Care Plus and its patients and families.
During the dinner, Rockcastle Pediatrics and Adolescents was recognized with this high honor, along with three other organizations from across the region.
Rockcastle Pediatrics and Adolescents, or RockPeds, was thanked for its essential support of pediatric patients served by Hospice Care Plus. Practice physicians Dr. Callie Shaffer and Dr. Sarah Oliver both serve as medical directors for Hospice’s youngest patients.
Hospice Care Plus presented the award because both Shaffer and Oliver “make themselves available 24/7 to oversee medical care, participate in care team meetings, write orders for prescriptions, and help design plans of care that promote quality of life, and pain and symptom management.”
In presenting the award, Hospice Care Plus noted that without the support of Rockcastle Pediatrics, its staff, and Drs. Shaffer and Oliver, it would be difficult, if not impossible to provide care for pediatric hospice patients and their families.
Dr. Shaffer was honored to accept the award and said, “While it’s very emotional to provide palliative care for children, it’s great to work with such a high quality team as the Hospice Care Plus’ nurses and staff.”
From your head to your feet, keep a healthy heartbeat!
Ladies, you’re invited to join us for the 9th annual Love Your Heart event on February 9, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in Rockcastle Regional’s Wellness Center. This event features door prizes, a healthy dinner, and a free gift for every lady. RSVP by February 6 to Kayla Rowe at (606) 256-7767.
Colonoscopies are key to preventing cancer, and they aren’t as bad as you think
By Dalton Godbey, Southern KY AHEC Intern
The word “colonoscopy” conjures such dread that it’s a subject either to be avoided or sometimes treated in a joking way. Like a root canal, it’s the last thing most people want to have done if it’s not absolutely necessary.
But to decrease risk of colorectal cancer, it’s a necessity, and it’s not a joking matter.
Colon cancer strikes more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among cancers that affect both men and women. In 2013, Kentucky had the highest incidence of colon cancer in the nation, and the fourth highest mortality rate.
But it’s also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers if found in its early stages. That’s where colonoscopies come in. And compared to the alternative of unchecked polyps or even cancer, a colonoscopy is nothing to dread.
This past summer, the Southern Kentucky Area Health Education Center and the Colon Cancer Prevention Project teamed up to educate the region about the importance of early detection of colorectal cancer. That early detection often involves a colonoscopy.
Amy Bray has worked as a registered nurse in the operating room at Rockcastle Regional Hospital for the last 10 years. Part of her job is to assist with colonoscopies.
“It’s really a simple procedure, and people don’t realize that.” Bray said.
A colonoscopy starts with some preparation a day before the actual procedure. A patient is put on a liquid diet and then drinks a bowel preparation drink in the evening to help cleanse the colon.
“A lot of people say the prep is the worst part, but it isn’t all that bad,” Bray said.
When they arrive for the procedure the next morning, patients are prepped and taken into a room where they are connected to an IV and have their vital signs checked. They are then sedated for the procedure, which only lasts about an hour and is done by using a scope to view the inside walls of the lower intestine.
“Once the procedure is over, patients wake up and don’t even realize that it has been done.” Bray said.
Colonoscopies typically are recommended at age 50. Regular colonoscopies allow doctors to prevent colorectal cancer by removing polyps from the colon before they turn cancerous. But those with a family history of colorectal cancer or symptoms such as pain in the lower stomach, a change in bowel habits, or blood in the stool should consult their physician to see if a colonoscopy is recommended. One in seven cases of colorectal cancer occurs in those under 50.
“Get it done,” Bray said. “It could save your life.”
Bray said a key factor in improving screening rates is education – not only about the importance of screening but also about the process of getting a colonoscopy. Many have an unfounded sense of fear.
Despite that sense of fear, Rockcastle Countians seem to be getting the message. In the hospital’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment survey, 75 percent of those surveyed over 50 said they had received a colonoscopy, which is above the state average.
Still, the survey also revealed many misperceptions about the procedure.
“A lot of people would be more willing to have screenings done if they knew what actually happens.” she said. “A few hours getting colonoscopy is nothing compared to your whole life.”
For more information on colorectal cancer and types of screenings, contact your family physician, your local health department, or call the Colon Cancer Prevention Project Hotline at 1-800-841-6399.
Faith carries local woman from diagnosis to survivorship
By Jana Bray, Community Relations Director
Janice Davidson never thought she would call herself a breast cancer survivor.
She has known many people who are cancer survivors who have fought the disease for years. And she has also lost several loved ones to the disease: her mother, a father-in-law, and two brothers-in-law.
Knowing the risks and what this dreaded disease can do, Janice was always adamant about getting her annual mammogram. So when she went in for her annual exam in August 2014, she wasn’t alarmed when she received a notice from her doctor that she needed to have another scan, as this wasn’t unusual for her. But after her second mammogram, she received a second call from her doctor recommending a biopsy, Janice’s worries began to race.
After the biopsy and several long days of waiting, Janice was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer called Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, or DCIS. It is a non-invasive cancer in the lining of the breast milk duct. When caught early, DCIS is highly treatable. But, if left untreated it can spread to surrounding tissue. Janice’s doctor said that because this was detected during her annual mammogram, and caught in its earliest stages, the cancer was still considered a stage 0. Her doctor recommended a lumpectomy.
“In November, I went into surgery confident,” said Janice. “My doctor told me I would need to receive radiation treatments following surgery and then I would be able to return to my life as normal.”
However, 40 minutes into her surgery, the doctor stopped the procedure and told Janice’s husband that more pathology tests would need to be completed.
“At my follow-up appointment, I was not prepared to hear what he was about to tell me,” said Janice. “He couldn’t get all of the cancer.”
Her doctor explained even though the cancer was still at a stage 0, it was not a lump as he had thought. It was more like grains of sand scattered throughout her breast. The next step was a mastectomy, which is the removal of the full breast.
“My head was swirling as I tried to digest the news. I felt a lot of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. And while these are very normal reactions to hearing such news, I still wanted to ask God, ‘Why?’”
During these weeks, Janice found herself doing one thing all of the time: praying.
“As I retreated to my prayer closet many times each day, the Holy Spirit directed me to Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”
But Janice said that it was hard to be still when you are full of worry and dread. “I looked up the definition of ‘still’ and learned it meant to be ‘free from noise or turbulence, untroubled, calm, peaceful, and freedom from storms.’”
During her times of reflection, Janice began to understand that being calm does not mean the storm is no longer all around us, it means it is no longer within us. “When we learn to trust God and cast our burdens on Him, we are able to hear the voice of God’s Spirit as he comes to comfort and guide us through our trials.”
“He reminded me of the suffering He went through for us. That the answer to my question of ‘Why?’ was so that I could use my experience to give Him praise, honor, and glory.”
Janice had a double mastectomy performed in December. During her follow-up visit, her doctor told her she was cancer free! Her lymph nodes were clear and she would not have to undergo any radiation therapy or take any medication treatment.
“As the doctor left the exam room, my husband and I looked across the room and saw a picture hanging on the wall. Below the picture, engraved on a plaque read, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10.”
But her journey did not end here. The weeks and months following were filled with more difficult times including six reconstruction surgeries, recovery, and healing.
“The recovery has not been easy, but I continue to remember that God sometimes uses trials for success in His own time. And even though I have suffered both physically and emotionally during the last two years, God has still given me the opportunity to minister to other women who are experiencing the burdens I have.”
Whether it be through phone calls, cards, or simply texts, Janice has been able to reach out to other women in Mt. Vernon who are facing a breast cancer diagnosis. Whatever way she can encourage or empower them through her own journey, Janice says, “The important thing is to let them know that God will see them through.”
Dr. Bethanie Hammond is returning to her native Rockcastle County to practice medicine.
Joining the radiology team located in the Outpatient Services Center, Dr. Hammond’s training, focus on lifelong learning, and continued dedication to patients and says, “I am a team player who places patients first and my goal is to deliver the best medical care possible.”
Board certified in diagnostic radiology, Dr. Hammond specializes in breast imaging. She chose this specialty “not only because it plays an integral role in the healthcare team, but also because it combines the technological advances of sophisticated imaging modalities with the personal, genuine touch of individualized patient care.”
Dr. Hammond is looking forward to this next phase in her medical career. “I’m thankful and excited to join the Rockcastle Regional team in providing quality patient care to my hometown and the surrounding communities.”
Taking care of others has always come naturally to Beverly Lopes. Growing up on her family’s farm in Nancy, Kentucky, Beverly was one of six children, and taking care of other people was just a part of her daily routine.
After graduating from high school in 1975, Beverly took her first job as a caretaker for a family friend who suffered from ALS and later moved to Nicholasville to care for another family friend living with Alzheimer’s. This is where she got her first taste of nursing responsibilities. By this time, Beverly says that she was bitten by the nursing bug and had found her calling.
In 1980, Beverly was offered her first official nursing job as a nursing assistant at Somerset Center, a long-term care facility.
“I was inspired by a resident who was blind,” said Beverly. “She could tell who you were just by the way you touched her. She always encouraged me to go further with my career because she said I had the touch.”
And that’s exactly what Beverly did. She worked her way through the healthcare field continuing as a nursing assistant, then a medical assistant, an EMT, and eventually enrolling in nursing school at Somerset Community College. She graduated with honors at 39.
Now Beverly serves as the west unit coordinator at Rockcastle Regional Hospital’s Respiratory Care Center.
“Even as a unit coordinator, every day I am still on the floor caring for patients,” said Beverly. “When I can do the smallest thing for a resident and see their face light up, then I can say my day is complete. This is why I chose nursing.”
Mike Carpenter doesn’t have to wonder if he’s doing a good job. He often reads about it.
It seems every few days, a small white envelope appears in his mailbox at his Crab Orchard home. Inside is a brief, handwritten thank you note from a co-worker at Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center, recognizing him for a specific way in which he went above and beyond in doing his job.
Pulled from a likely stack of bills and junk mail, the note — as any Rockcastle Regional employee will attest — always provides a boost.
“When people are recognized for the work they do, it’s really a motivator,” said Carpenter, who estimates he’s received 75 thank you notes in the last two or three years. “It makes you want to keep doing your best at your job, and it reminds you to recognize others as well.”
Encouragement of personal thank you notes is just one of the ways Rockcastle Regional, named a 2016 Best Place to Work in Kentucky, has built a culture of gratitude and recognition. That’s particularly important in healthcare, where highly engaged and satisfied employees deliver better care to patients.
In January, Carpenter will have been delivering care at Rockcastle Regional 25 years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What keeps me here,” the Livingston native said, “is there’s still that family atmosphere, no matter how much we grow.”
Carpenter works in the respiratory care center, which soon will expand to 121 beds, making it the largest facility of its kind in the nation. Patients there are dependent on ventilators to breathe because of illness or injury.
The care provided is multi-disciplinary in nature, so teamwork is a must.
“Everybody just wants to make it good for the patient,” he said.
Many patients are eventually able to wean, but most are residents of the facility for at least several months. That means they become part of the family too.
And it makes for a unique care-delivering experience.
“If I was a respiratory therapist right out of school, I’d definitely give this place a try. Just being a part of the team and the process of weaning patients – you learn so much about how the different aspects of care all work together.”
You also might learn something about yourself, just by going to the mailbox.
Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center has received the prestigious Kentucky Hospital Association Quality Award for the eighth time in the last 11 years.
Rockcastle Regional earned the award because of its efforts to enhance the overall patient experience while creating a culture focused on what is best for the patient.
“The idea goes beyond patient-centered care,” said Rockcastle Regional’s quality and patient safety director Tammy Brock. “It’s about improving the patient experience – showing compassion while delivering great care.”
Communication between patients and their care providers not only is key to achieving healthy outcomes, it’s essential to enhancing the patient experience. Rockcastle Regional’s personalized white boards in patient rooms, nurse leader rounding on patients, and bedside nurse shift reports engage patients in their own care, reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
Brock said efforts have also been made to improve the discharge process for patients.
“In addition to educating patients on discharge instructions,” Brock said, “we have also implemented discharge planning teams, nurse practitioner home visits, smoking cessation education, and ’Meds-to-Beds,’ which delivers a patient’s prescription medicine to their bedside prior to discharge. All of these are aimed at equipping patients with the information and resources they need to stay healthy once they return home.”
Rockcastle Regional was also recognized for its culture of service. Numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between engaged employees and positive patient outcomes. Rockcastle Regional has implemented multiple initiatives to increase employee engagement, reward employees who are doing excellent work, and provide opportunities for them to grow and develop professionally.
“As with any job, training is vital to the success of an organization, but to maintain a culture of service in healthcare you must reconnect with the passion of service for each employee,” said Cynthia Burton, RN and chief nursing officer.
All employees are trained to exhibit quality customer service which includes friendliness, helpfulness and a positive demeanor in all interactions. And “one of our tools to connect back to the passion of service is to share personal stories that illustrate the difference employees make in patient lives,” Burton said. “These stories reinforce why we are here and why we chose healthcare careers.”
While the hospital has created a culture of service within the facility, it has developed a culture of prevention in the community, providing education to empower Rockcastle County residents to become active participants in their own healthcare.
Rockcastle County has high rates of chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and COPD. To combat these issues, Rockcastle Regional focuses on prevention and early detection at community events such as the annual Love Your Heart Women’s Health Fair and the Healthy Joe Expo.
In addition, surveys indicate patients are increasingly satisfied with their care at Rockcastle Regional. Since 2013, it has ranked in the top 10 percent nationally in patient satisfaction scores, and in 2015 was one of only six facilities in Kentucky to receive a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
“The KHA Quality Award is not easily obtained,” said Stephen A. Estes, president and CEO. “That we’ve won it so often over the years speaks to the consistent focus of our physicians and staff on delivering the best possible care.”
The award is presented to honor hospital leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment in patient care. It is also meant as a way to inspire other healthcare organizations to use the winning hospitals’ programs as examples of how to improve their own quality and patient safety efforts.
To learn more about the KHA Quality Award, visit www.kyha.com/patient-safety-quality.