Nurturing Mind, Body and Spirit
Our care goes beyond medicine
Many know us for great care and research, but we’re also home to employees who help patients in unique and unexpected ways.
Just being there
Social Worker Rhonda Fields always knew she wanted to help others. She began her career helping children get a better education and now works to comfort families in the health system’s Children’s and Adult Emergency Departments.
“Our patients and families go through so much emotionally and physically,” she says. “My job is to just be there for them, listen, and make sure they get the best care possible.”
Rhonda remembers meeting a mother of a nine-month-old girl who was having trouble breathing. The girl’s older brother was at the hospital too and scared for his sister’s life.
“All of a sudden this boy walked over and hugged me. He didn’t need medical care or a toy, he just needed comfort,” Rhonda says. “Being able to help a family at a traumatic moment like that has been really powerful for me. I may never see them again, but I made a lasting impact.”
Journeying with the patient
Chaplain Rev. Jamie D. Hawley also helps others deal with difficult emotions that often come with being sick.
“I try to journey with our patients without posing any beliefs on them,” he says. “We take a holistic approach to healing and what that means to each person. Sometimes just sitting and talking with someone is enough to lift their spirit.”
Jamie says UMHS chaplains work in a variety of faith traditions and even support those who don’t consider themselves religious.
“People often think that if prayer is not needed, then a chaplain is not needed. However, we feel we are sent to serve our patients and their families no matter what they believe or are going through.”
Jamie appreciates the scope of his work and the impact he makes in all phases of a patient’s life.“We are here to help whether that’s during the sacred moment a life enters this world or the sacred moment when a life leaves it.”
Helping with the bill
Like Rev. Hawley, James Goebel, U-M MSupport Coordinator, is used to seeing families in need.
“I step in when patients are having trouble paying their medical bills,” he says. “This means catching them during one of the worst parts of their experience at the health system and attempting to make it one of the better ones.”
James works with U-M social workers, Patient Financial Counselors, the Patient Customer Service team, Guest Assistance, and outside agencies such as Washtenaw Health Plan, to make the payment process easier for patients and their family.
There was one patient Goebel remembers who sent him a Christmas card every year after he assisted with her balance and helped her to better understand Medicaid. Another patient insisted on coming to see James, even though he was suffering from terminal lung cancer. The patient was grateful his bills were one less worry for his family.
“Hearing how my efforts have given a patient hope or helped them with their debt makes the job worthwhile.” says James, who has been with the health system for 15 years. “Working here and making a difference in the lives of others is an integral part of who I am.”
Eating right and living well
Shirley Kadoura is a nutrition specialist at UMHS who gets her motivation right from the patients she serves.
Shirley remembers one patient who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes that showed incredible initiative to do everything she could to get healthy.
“She was committed from the start and came to appointments with her mom who was also working on weight loss,” Shirley says.
“Together they were excellent support for one another—planning meals, tracking food daily and exercising together. After the patient lost weigh she ‘paid it forward’ by continuing to encourage and support others on the same journey to better health.”
“And did I mention she is no longer pre-diabetic? She is one of our many patients who got healthier through regular checkups and medical nutrition therapy.”
From social support and spiritual guidance to helping with bills and healthy eating, our employees stand apart from the rest by raising the bar on patient care.