10 Tips for Handling the Holiday Blues

10 Tips for Handling the Holiday Blues

For many of us, making time during the holidays for social events; doing the cooking, the shopping and the entertaining; and trying our best to care for ourselves and our families can be hectic. The hustle, bustle and stress can even lead to a dark period of anxiety, loneliness and regret for some.

This holiday season, Mercy Health would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care, including embracing a healthy spirit.

  1. Keep your expectations manageable and set realistic goals for yourself. Prioritize the important activities.
  2. Be realistic about what you can do. Don’t put the focus on just one day. Activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  3. The holiday season doesn’t eliminate reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them.
  4. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed and celebrated in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  5. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
  6. Enjoy free activities, such as viewing outdoor holiday decorations, window shopping or making a snowman.
  7. Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  8. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  9. Spend time with supportive, caring people. Make new friends or contact someone you’ve lost track of.
  10. Save time for yourself and recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

If you feel like you need assistance in managing your stress, or if you can’t seem to shake the holiday blues, consider reaching out to one of the following:

Mercy Health’s Employee Assistance Program, CareBridge, offers free, confidential help to all colleagues. Call 800.437.0911 or learn more here.

  • One of our Mercy Health chaplains: call 616.685.6338 (Saint Mary’s Campus), or 231.672.2000 (for Mercy Health Muskegon Campuses).
  • Your primary care physician, who can help coordinate your care and refer you to a specialist.Taking care of yourself during the holidays will help you ring in the new year in better health.


Paul Frank: Former Marine, Retiree and Mercy Health Volunteer

According to research, volunteering can a healthy way for people to spend their time. Volunteering not only gives individuals a feeling of satisfaction and purpose, but it can actually be good for one’s social, physical and mental health.1

frank-paul-at-reception-crPaul Frank seems to know that instinctively. For more than five years he volunteered in Mercy Health’s Emergency Department where he was able to “help save lives.” Now he works as a patient transport volunteer, which gives him an opportunity to speak with patients and their families and sometimes “swap war stories” with other veterans he meets during his shift.

Wearing his red Marine Corps hat for Veteran’s Day, Paul shared how proud he is to have been a marine who served for 14 months in Korea. Being in the U.S. military and volunteering for a nonprofit share a common theme — they involve giving service to others.

“At the end of the day,” said Frank, “volunteering at Mercy Health and serving my country both make me feel good, like I have made a difference.”

A widower for five years, Frank loves the camaraderie and social aspects of volunteering too. “And the pay isn’t bad, either,” he said with a smile. “I work for hugs, and all of the nurses know that.”

1Source: West Michigan Plus, June-July, 2016, “For Better Health and More Happiness…Volunteer.”

Crucial Member of an Interdisciplinary Health Care Team: the Physician Assistant

Reflections on this Career from a 20+ Year Pro

kevin-saunders-crHad Kevin Saunders, PA-C, been born in another era, he might have been drawn to serve as a medic in the Korean War or a hospital attendant during the Civil War.

Some form of “medical assisting” has been documented around the world since the 1600s. Prior to the official formation of the American Association of Medical Assistants in the United States in 1956, men and women — who were not trained as doctors — helped to deliver medical care to everyone from wounded soldiers in battle to prisoners to families living in neighborhoods with public health epidemics.

Referring to himself as a mid-level provider, Saunders said that the biggest draw to working at Mercy Health Physician Partners Downtown is this: “It’s the people I work with. It’s not necessarily the administration or the salary or the benefits,” he said. Mercy Health’s compassionate, people-centered culture makes it a place where Saunders has enjoyed working for the last 18 years.

“The doctors are easy-going, they are available for questions, they have a lot of fun and they have a great sense of humor,” said Saunders. “It doesn’t matter if you are a physician, a PA or an NP, we all treat each other with respect.”

But there is more than a collegial environment that keeps Saunders at Mercy Health.

As a physician assistant (PA), Saunders loves the fact that he is able to have long-term relationships with patients. “I have some patients I saw as infants who are now going to college,” he shared. Saunders considers his patients to be his friends and enjoys whenever he happens to see them in public.

He also loves the variety of patients and medical conditions that he cares for during a typical day. Most days he sees both acute and non-acute patients who may range in age from newborns to senior citizens.

Saunders doesn’t shy away from patients with complex issues. “It’s like a big puzzle that you have to try to figure out,” Saunders said with enthusiasm. Getting it right is both the challenge and the reward for him.

As with other PAs, this graduate of Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia is able to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions — as well as order labs and imaging, conduct examinations and prescribe medications — under the supervision of a licensed physician.

For anyone considering a career as a PA, Saunders offered this advice: “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and all I can say is this: ‘It’s the way to go. I get to do a lot of what physicians do, but I have a great work-life balance. I get paid for something I like to do, which is almost like golf!'”

Thinking about becoming a PA or an NP? According to Merritt Hawkins, a healthcare provider recruitment company, the demand for PAs increased by more than 300% between 2011 and 2014. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, one study projects a near doubling of the total NP workforce by 2025, while another predicts the number of NPs providing primary care will increase by 30 percent by 2020.

Mercy Health supports the ongoing education of its colleagues. To learn more about professional growth opportunities, contact Kristine Todd, director of RN practice and development at toddkm@mercyhealth.com.

Dr. Ron Ford Receives Doctor Appreciation Award — “Making the Difference”

Dr. Ford is surprised about the award.
Dr. Ford is surprised about the award.

Dr. Ron Ford consistently demonstrates the traits for a Doctor Appreciation Award recipient. He shows personal interest in and respect for all of his patients. He is also a tremendous surgeon.

Heather Stark continues to elaborate by sharing her family’s story:

“I have been on both sides when it comes to working with Dr. Ford. I work beside him as a surgical technologist, and I am the spouse of one of his recent patients. My husband was diagnosed with melanoma early December 2015. The day Dr. Ford was informed of my husband’s life-threatening disease, he couldn’t sleep. My husband and I had  just become new parents.

“Knowing this, Dr. Ford was very sympathetic to the challenges we were about to face. He became directly involved and moved very efficiently and aggressively to address my husband’s melanoma.

“Dr. Ford joined forces with Dr. Winkle and scheduled the surgery just one short week later. In doing this, Dr. Ford selflessly gave up his bock OR time so that Dr. Winkle could take as long as he needed to perform his part of the surgery. Dr. Ford also provided us with his cell phone number to remain in contact in case we had any questions.

cake-1“During my husband’s surgery, Dr. Ford remained in constant communication with me and my family to keep us informed. Needless to say, he saved my husband’s life by acting so quickly. From the time of the diagnosis to the final lab results and surgery — only three weeks had past. That alone is amazing!

“Dr. Ford gave us a sense of peace and comfort in knowing that we were being very well taken care of throughout this entire process. I see him share this compassion with every patient he encounters,  but being on the other side truly makes me feel more proud to know him. Being his patient’s spouse, I was able to see the bigger view of the type of doctor and man that Dr. Ford really is. I am so fortunate to work with him.”

Thank you for all that you do, Dr. Ford. Mercy Health Saint Mary’s appreciates you!



October Friends of Nursing Award Winner, Jonathan (Jon) Jordan, PCA Mercy Health Muskegon

Friends of Nursing Award Winner

fonThe October 2016 Friends of Nursing Award winner is Jonathan (Jon) Jordan, Float PCA at the Hackley campus.  Jonathan was nominated by Brian Churchill, RN from the Emergency Department at Hackley Campus.

Brian writes…  “I went to see how a patient was doing.  Jon was on the floor with the patients child playing cars so his parent could be cared for.  Jon is always pleasant to patients and staff .”

Jonathan was honored with a surprise ceremony in the Hackley ED amongst his peers.  To nominate a well deserving colleague, please complete the Friends of Nursing nomination form located on the Mercy Health Muskegon Intranet.

Mercy Health Muskegon September DAISY Award Winner – Gina Moore, RN

DAISY Award Winner – September 2016

The September 2016 DAISY Award winner is Gina Moore, RN (pictured) from North 3 at Hackley Campus.  Gina was nominated by her co-worker, Kelly Morrell.

“Gina had a 95-year-old patient discharged who didn’t realize they had to get a new medication.  The patient lives in Mears and had no available pharmacies to fill her medication order.  Gina got her mediation from our pharmacy and drove to Mears and dropped it off after her shift.”daisy

Gina was honored with a surprise ceremony on her unit in front of her leaders and peers. Congratulations, Gina!

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s DAISY Award Winner: Stephanie Clapham

Stephanie (left) and two of the patient's family members of the In June 2016, a daughter of a Mercy Health patient nominated Stephanie Clapham, 8 Main Clinical Nurse, for a DAISY Award. The skill and compassionate care exemplified by Stephanie to our patients, their families and our staff illustrate why she is an outstanding role model. The Work Environment Council selected Stephanie to receive the Daisy Award. The nomination reads:

“Our mother, Carolyn Jean Garvin Misser, died on June 1, 2016, in Room 807 after a five-day hospital stay. She was 89 years old, and this was her first major illness. Her passing was very difficult for us; but her struggle, and ours, was made easier by the wonderful care she received in her final days by all of the staff on the 8th floor.  Nurse Stephanie Clapham stood out even among her outstanding peers, and we want to recognize her.

stephanie-signing-banner“Stephanie was with us for our mom’s final hours, minutes and seconds. She wanted to know stories about Mom, she wanted to know about us, and she was with us as we made the decision to turn to “comfort care” at the end. She knew Carolyn was dying, but wanted all of us to be comforted — not just our mom.

“Stephanie seemed to sense when to engage with us and when to stand back and let us have our private moments; she showed wisdom beyond her years. Stephanie did not shy from her job and treated what we were going through as so much more than just another day on the 8th floor.

“She was prepared, she was professional, she was supportive and she was compassionate — she was a bright spot for us on that very dismal day. RNs like Stephanie reflect great credit on Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and the nursing profession.

Thank you for the excellent nursing care you provide to those entrusted to us, Stephanie!”



Maria Álvarez de López Recognized as a Woman of Achievement by Mercy Health

maria-alvarez-delopez-crMercy Health was proud to sponsor this year’s YWCA’s Tribute! Awards on November 9. At the luncheon, Mercy Health recognized María Álvarez de López, Manager of Community Benefit Programs at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, as a Woman of Achievement.

Maria oversees Community Health Programs, including Community Health Education and Community Outreach. She has served more than 20 years in the health and human services field, providing direct services, administering programs and advocacy.

Since 1977, the YWCA’s annual Tribute Awards have honored more than 175 women representing a distinguished sorority of leaders and trailblazers. Congratulations, Maria!

Hepatitis C Clinic Brings Comprehensive Care to Grand Rapids

It’s like something out of a nightmare: a silent, symptomless disease that causes liver damage, cancer and even death. Unfortunately, Hepatitis C is very real, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic Hepatitis C affects an estimated four million people in the United States. A viral infection of the liver, Hepatitis C is commonly contracted from:

  • Shared needles
  • Blood transfusions or organ transplants before July 1992
  • Accidental exposure to infected needles and blood

With the success of the Hepatitis C Clinic at Mercy Health Muskegon, providers at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s took a closer look at the Hepatitis C situation in Grand Rapids. In 2015, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 177 cases of chronic Hepatitis C in Muskegon County. In Kent County, there were 493 — only four counties had more.

Ryan Tomlin, PharmD and Lucy Ledesma, NP, decided that enough was enough. “Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has the resources to help patients with Hepatitis C,” Tomlin said. “There are a lot of people in the Grand Rapids area who need help.”

In July 2016, the Hepatitis C Clinic opened in Suite 410 of the Wege Building North. The provider team, led by Tomlin and Ledesma, provides comprehensive care to patients with Hepatitis C. In the past few years, medications have been formulated that can cure Hepatitis C. The clinic team at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s works to make the curing process as easy as possible.

Comprehensive Care

FibroScan machines analyze the liver and give vital information to providers about how a patient’s Hepatitis C infection is progressing. These devices are highly useful for managing Hepatitis C, and the one at Mercy Health is special because it can measure fat deposits in the liver.

Hepatitis C can trigger fat accumulation in the liver, causing even more damage. “Fat deposits are another way for us to measure how the disease is progressing,” Ledesma said. And that is important for a patient’s insurance.

Many insurance programs, including Medicaid, will cover more Hepatitis C medication costs as a patient meets certain criteria. The more you know, the more you can save.

The clinic at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has a collaborative team composed of a Nurse Practitioner (Ledesma), a clinical pharmacist (Tomlin), and a nurse. Collaboration makes it possible for the entire team to focus and carefully follow each patient’s progress. They can guide treatment plans by checking that patients have filled their prescriptions on time and understand their lab results.

Mercy Health’s Saint Mary’s Hepatitis C Clinic is the only clinic in Grand Rapids with a clinical pharmacist, and the only one with a pharmacy within the same building. The Wege Pharmacy in the Wege Building is working toward becoming a specialty pharmacy, which means that patients can visit their doctor and then pick up their prescription from the same facility.

Tomlin is part of the clinic’s tight-knit team. He educates patients thoroughly about their medications and helps them complete their insurance paperwork. The goal is simple: Make it as easy as possible for patients to get the care they need.

Do You Have Hepatitis C?

Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should ask their primary care provider for a screening, even if they do not think they are at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control, untreated Hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer or even death Two simple blood tests will determine if a patient has Hepatitis C.

These days, Hepatitis C is not a life sentence. “As long as you take your medications when you should, it is completely curable,” Tomlin said.

With advanced technologies, provider expertise and a collaborative team approach, the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hepatitis C Clinic makes it easier to stop this nightmare.

Hepatitis C Clinic: 310 Lafayette St, Suite 410; contact the Infectious Disease office at 616.685.8200

Nurse Practitioners Fill Vital Role in Improving Access to Health Care

 One Woman’s 19-year Journey

nicole-abbgy-cr-1Determination. Commitment. Resilience.

For Nicole Abbgy, NP-C, life has always been about finding the right balance between work, school and parenting. “Part of the reason I chose nursing is that you can pursue a degree in phases, unlike medical school.”

Today Abbgy is a nurse practitioner (NP) who has the best of both worlds: As mid-level providers, nurse practitioners “can see, diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for patients, just as physicians do,” she explained. “We also have the support and oversight of a physician if we have questions.” Advanced practice professionals, such as NPs, serve patients by increasing access to care. She is one of 144 advanced practice professionals working at Mercy Health Physician Partners in Grand Rapids.

Since her early college days, Abbgy knew she wanted a career in the medical field. She worked toward that goal by pursuing nursing — her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Valley State University and her Master of Science in Nursing from Spring Arbor University — while raising her children as a single parent.

Abbgy also worked at Mercy Health for most of the past 19 years, first as a patient care assistant (1997), as a registered nurse in a cardiac step-down unit (2000), in critical care (2002) and now as an nurse practitioner at Mercy Health Internal Health and Residency Center. She passed national boards for NPs in July 2016.

After briefly leaving Mercy Health for another local job in medical care, she returned to work on Saint Mary’s Campus. For Abbgy, the biggest draw to working for Mercy Health was and continues to be the organization’s Mission Statement and Core Values: “The spirit of compassion and commitment to serve the underserved really spoke to me.”

As with many patients she nursed in the critical care unit, a significant number of the patients she sees today require complex care. “What drew me toward primary care now,” she said, “was being able to build a relationship with patients and to help prevent them from ending up in critical care someday. I feel I can make an important difference for people in this new role.”

Providing access to quality health care to the underserved in an urban setting is a passion Abbgy takes seriously. “In the future I would like to learn more about Heartside Health Center and Browning Clator Health Center and maybe give back to the community that way,” she said.

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner, Abbgy offers this advice:

  • You have to really care about the patients. With studying medicine, you can get caught up in the knowledge and technology, but it all boils down to the patient.
  • It will be hard — you’ll have moments when you want to quit. Don’t throw in the towel.
  • Lean on family and friends. Getting your degree and reaching your goal are achievable.

Mercy Health supports the ongoing education of its colleagues. To learn more about professional growth opportunities in nursing, contact Kristine Todd, director of RN practice and development at toddkm@mercyhealth.com.