Johnson Award honors Jenette Whitener’s passion for service

March 30, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

If there is ever a problem in the University Hospital’s intermediate and intensive care unit, the nurses know who to call: Jenette Whitener.

As a patient-care technical associate with Michigan Medicine, Whitener strives to bring the best quality of care to her patients — a quality that led to her winning U-M’s 2022 Candace J. Johnson Award for Staff Excellence.

“My heart is full of joy and happiness,” Whitener said. “I am so honored to receive this upcoming award.”

The Candace Johnson Award honors staff members who are committed to professionalism, teamwork and fostering a supportive environment in the workplace. It is named in memory of Johnson, a deeply valued and well-liked employee of the Office of the Provost who died in 2003.

More than 200 university staff members were nominated for the 2022 award. A committee of previous winners and Provost’s Office representatives chose Whitener for the award.

Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said learning about Whitener’s dedication to patient care inspired her.

“Those who have spent time in a medical facility know what a profound difference even the smallest kindnesses can make. A moment of genuine, compassionate interaction can change the entire tenor of a hospital stay,” McCauley said. “Jenette delivers those moments every day — the kind people tell their friends and family about.

“Her commitment to patient care is manifested in both personal warmth and an incredibly high standard of professionalism. It is an honor to learn about her work and share its impact with our community.”

Melissa Keegan, a registered nurse who works with Whitener, wrote in a nomination letter that Whitener leads others with her positive attitude and cultivates a teamwork mentality in their unit.

“Jenette is a kind, gentle soul, and she spreads that around the unit to the other staff and the patients,” Keegan wrote. “She is very dependable, when I am working with her I have confidence my patients are well looked after if I happen to get caught up in a busy room.

“She is helpful, and never makes me feel like a burden when I ask for her help. I love to work with Jenette because I always feel supported. … I am always thankful to have her around when I have an agitated or confused patient because I know that her soft, kind personality can work wonders.”

As a patient-care technical associate, Whitener provides personal hygiene care to patients, helps sterilize and prepare patient rooms, and assists nurses with several responsibilities.

“She maintains her positive attitude, even in the busiest of shifts. The other techs seem to perform better when they are on a shift with her, because she sets the bar high and it makes others want to strive for excellence as well,” Keegan wrote.

From spending extra time chatting with patients to assisting newly hired techs on her unit, Whitener goes the extra mile.

When Michigan Medicine introduced essential oils into inpatient care areas, Whitener started incorporating their new lavender lotion into her bed-bath routine to help her patients feel moisturized and soothed. Whitener enjoys watching sunsets and sunrises, and she reminds patients to look out their window and enjoy the beautiful view from the eighth floor.

“(Whitener) has a soothing presence; it’s hard to describe it in words, but it’s essentially a combination of her personality, her voice, the words she uses, and the gentle touch she uses in her care,” Keegan wrote.

Whitener will be honored at a reception later this spring.