Awareness is Key to Addressing Chemical Dependency

The numbers are sobering. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that, in 2016, approximately 20.1 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) related to their use of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, including 15.1 million people who had an alcohol use disorder and 7.4 million people who had an illicit drug use disorder. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from overdosing on illicit drugs and prescription opioids. This number has nearly doubled in a decade.

SUDs occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home. Addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.

Awareness about the scope of chemical abuse and dependency and the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual toll it takes is one component, along with prevention and treatment to improving the lives of affected individuals.

There is good news regarding prevention. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded research has shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction.

Treatment for chemical dependency generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. According to NIDA, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency, don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is available. Contact your PCP who can help coordinate your care and refer you to a specialist, if needed. If you don’t have a PCP, just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

Mercy Health is committed to providing resources that promote well-being though body, mind and spirit and is dedicated to helping you Live Your Whole Life.

February 2018 DAISY Award Recipient, Cameron Ferrier, RN

Cameron Ferrier  the Nursing Floats/3rd Floor at the Mercy Campus. Cameron was nominated by two of his peers for his exceptional example of remaining calm under pressure.

“Cameron responded to a Code Gray for an elderly patient who was agitated, combative, and escalating toward physical violence. Cameron was able to calm the patient, and he spent nearly 30 minutes with the confused patient talking to and calming him down until he fell asleep. Cameron de-escalated the situation with his patience, kindness, compassion, and communication skills. Cameron is a great example of what a caring nurse and great coworker can be.”

Cameron was honored with a surprise celebration on the 3rd floor before his leaders, fellow colleagues and the Nursing Operations Council members. Congratulations, Cameron!




Living our Values Takes All of Us; Colleague and Engagement Survey is April 9-30

Creating exceptional experiences for patients and fellow colleagues brings our Mission and our values to life at Mercy Health. Each one of us plays an important role in making this possible.

Please take time from April 9 to April 30 to join nearly 120,000 colleagues across Trinity Health to take the 2018 Colleague Engagement and Safety Survey. In the spirit of Living Our Values, your sacred opinions can help Mercy Health shape and create a more trusting, caring and safe place to work.

Through the annual Colleague Engagement and Safety Survey, we can look at how our organization is doing in meeting your needs and expectations. The results of the 2017 survey showed we are making progress and there is more to do to improve our work setting.

Please talk with your colleagues about the actions your team has taken or can take. Take time in your huddles, team meetings and one-on-one meeting to share what is working and what we might do even better. Celebrate what you’ve put forward. Keep sharing your thoughts and concerns.

Thank you for all you do every day to give great care to the people and communities we serve.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hosts Fourth Cohort of Nurses from Japan

Back Row: Sarah Simon, Kristin Mast, Megan Pashnik, Kylie Schaberg
Middle Row: Hatsumi Ibuki, Rebecca Valko, Yoko Inaki, Mikiko Hirano
Front Row: Tomomi Ino, Kumiko Nakashima, Minami Kakuta

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s continues to help educate nurses across the country and internationally about the role of the Clinical Nurse Leader  (CNL)and the CNL’s impact on patients and outcomes.

Thanks to our strong CNL presence and visionary nursing leadership, on March 14, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hosted five graduate students and doctoral students from Kyoto University, Japan, joined by colleagues from Saint Anthony College of Nursing, a member of OSF Health Care in Rockford, Illinois. They participated in a shadowing experience with Mercy Health CNLs. It was the first time these nurses had been to a hospital in the United States.

Their 2-day visit provided an opportunity for our visitors to enrich what they’ve learned about the role of CNL by observing how the CNL actually works at the bedside. They were amazed by the many ways that nurses can make positive impact on quality of care and outcomes for patients. The learning experience was reciprocal and the CNLs were able to learn about what health care looks like in Japan.

During their shadowing experience, our guests expressed their gratitude for everyone’s hospitality, kindness and patience, especially with their English. Thanks to all who helped to make this experience so positive and rewarding.


Sweet Success

Patient’s Best Friend Honors Mercy Health Surgical Oncologist

More than two years after being diagnosed with and treated for pancreatic cancer at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, Craig Bergman is thriving. In December 2015, Surgical Oncologist Jill Onesti, MD, removed Bergman’s gall bladder and duodenum, and parts of his pancreas and intestine in a surgery called the Whipple procedure.

When Craig was first diagnosed, it rattled everyone’s world. Cancer also affected Bergman’s best friend, Mark Datema, who faithfully ran the gauntlet with his friend.

“He’s been my super great friend for more than 20 years,” said Bergman. “Mark’s been on this journey with me since day one. If my wife Laura wasn’t in the room, he was in the room. Mark spent nights in the hospital and was there during surgery days and throughout chemo and radiation.”

Datema was fortunate to work for a family business, Grand Rapids Cheesecake Company, that gave him the flexibility to be there for his friend. “Our wives and families are also very close. I tried to help Craig and Laura the best I could,” Datema shared.

When post-surgical complications arose, neither Dr. Onesti nor Craig ever gave up. Datema said, “Craig is a fighter, and she wasn’t going to quit, either. And they both could have given up.”

Laura Bergman recalls that frightening time when an infection threatened her husband’s recovery. “Dr. Onesti said she was going to figure it out. She said, ‘I’m going to pray, and I will speak with doctors in other hospitals, and we will find a way to make you healthy again.’ We can’t thank Dr. Onesti enough.”

[g-slider gid=”4297″ width=”100%” height=”55%” random=”0″ watermark=”0″]In 2013, Datema began raising honey bees and was looking for a name for his business. “Watching the way she cared for Craig, I asked Dr. Onesti if I could name my business Onesti Honey, to honor her. I just wanted to thank her, and she gave her permission.”

Since then, people from Mercy Health have visited Grand Rapids Cheesecake Company stores and recognized the surgeon’s name on the honey products.

“I just play dumb when they mention Dr. Onesti,” Datema said, “and then I share with customers the story about my friend and his wonderful surgeon. I love the name because it also has the word ‘nest’ in it. And some people pronounce it as ‘honesty,’ which is also a reflection of who Dr. Onesti is.”

Bergman’s cancer journey has inspired Datema on many levels, including conversations about faith and religion.

“I spent a lot of time on my knees praying for Craig,” Datema recalled. “In the end, there is a reason why things happen, and Craig said he could never have gotten through it without his faith and the prayers of others. If feel the same way.”

While Bergman’s disease has brought him closer to his family and friends, it has also changed his outlook on life. He lives his life as one of the 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients whose disease won’t return.

A naturally positive person, Bergman has recovered physically, allowing him to check off several items on his bucket list, such as waterskiing, teaching his daughters how to snow ski, and returning to work. These days he works part-time as a lead quality control, safety coordinator and lean manager on a multimillion dollar construction project.

“Before cancer  I took my health for granted. Now I’m more grounded, and I’ve learned to realign my priorities. I have a second chance, and I don’t want to mess it up.”

Laura describes her husband this way: “Craig is cancer-free. He is doing great and is stronger than ever. Sometimes I feel he is a walking miracle. We had a diagnosis and a cure…Mercy Health is an awesome place.”

For the Bergman and Datema families, life is sweet.

Read Craig Bergman’s original story.

Mercy Transitions of Care (MTOC) Team Offer Smooth Process from Hospital to Home

Mercy Transitions of Care (MTOC) Team Offer Smooth Transition Home from the Hospital

Taking the Guesswork Out of Post-Acute Care

MTOC Team: Julie Olechnowicz, NP, Sara Kirchhoff, LMSW and Grace LeBlanc, PA

Leaving the hospital after an acute medical stay can be a daunting experience for a patient. Remembering dosages for medication, caring for post-surgery wounds, or even knowing who to call with questions can be overwhelming during a discharge. The Mercy Health Specialists in Hospital Medicine (SHM) group, along with the Mercy Health Visiting Nurse Services (VNS) have partnered to close the gap between hospital and home: Mercy Transitions of Care, or more often referred to as MTOC.

The goal of MTOC is to provide a smooth transition from a patient’s hospital stay back to their primary care physician. With expertise in hospital medicine, internal medicine, geriatric medicine and social work, MTOC providers help manage patients discharge and medical needs within Mercy Health and throughout the community.

“A primary value of SHM is stewardship,” said Rolf Hissom, MD, Medical Director for SHM. “We see the development of MTOC as a means of honoring this value by improving the likelihood that patients can be independent, using their time as they see fit – rather than being sequestered in the hospital or nursing home. We do this by providing services and resources to the patient in their home, decreasing their likelihood of returning to the hospital or nursing home – thus, stewarding the patient’s time, health and finances.”

MTOC works in conjunction with hospital internists, nursing, case managers and care managers, homecare, primary care physicians, specialists, and therapists, to ensure patients are maintaining and improving their health once they leave acute and sub-acute care. This supportive program provides patients with a visiting nurse practitioner and physician assistant as well as a case manager that travels directly to their homes within 48 hours of discharge from the hospital. Through this unique combination of nursing and social work resources, patients receive a follow-up on their health status, as well as confirming they have appropriate support services and to supplement their health care and social needs.

“It is timely comprehensive follow up care that is inclusive of both medical and social assessments. This work results in patients having a better understanding of their medical diagnoses, medication regimen, and support in connecting to resources to help patients maintain improved healthfulness,” said Sara Kirchhoff, LMSW and MTOC team member.

MTOC is available to address patients concerns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to patients who are within a 30-mile radius of our Mercy Health Muskegon facilities. With the goal of continuing Mercy Health’s mission of transforming and improving the health of our communities, MTOC’s personal services are billed similar to that of a physician specialist office visit. This ensures that patients do not feel excess financial burdens as a result of the MTOC efforts.

The success of the MTOC program thus far is resounding. While Mercy Health’s readmission rates are already low, MTOC has played a key role in decreasing them significantly.  Additionally, the program has been successful in helping patients return home confidently.  As pointed out by MTOC Lead and Nurse Practitioner Julie Olechnowicz, “This has really proven to be a more valuable service to our community members than I ever could have imagined when I first signed up to be a part of it. We have had so much success in such a short amount of time, that I am excited to see how much more we can do in the future.”




Mercy Health Hosts Sole Flag-signing Ceremony in Michigan for Transplant Games

The Donate Life Transplant Games flag made a stop in West Michigan on March 14 to promote the games and draw attention to the need for more organ, eye and tissue donors.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hosted the special event during which Team Michigan members – transplant recipients, donor family members, living donors and supporters – had the opportunity to sign the flag as it makes its way around the country ahead of the Donate Life Transplant Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, in August 2018.

Bill Manns, president, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, greeted everyone at the event: “At the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center, our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to positively impacting our community through the promotion of our patients’ physical, mental and spiritual wellness during all phases of their kidney transplant. By providing a venue where transplant recipients, donors and donors’ families can connect with one another, the Transplant Games help demonstrate that there is more to life than just their illness.”

[g-slider gid=”4279″ width=”100%” height=”55%” random=”0″ watermark=”0″]

Started in 2012 and held biennially, the Donate Life Transplant Games is a multi-sport festival event produced by the Grand Rapids-based Transplant Life Foundation. Competition events are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow, corneal and tissue transplant recipients. More than an athletic event, the games highlight the critical importance of organ, eye and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of donors and recipients.

The mission of Team Michigan, a not-for-profit organization run solely by volunteers, is to promote organ and tissue donation awareness through participation in the Transplant Games. Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program, is a sponsor of the Transplant Life Foundation and a supporter of Team Michigan.

“We are pleased to partner with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to support Team Michigan and all the participants in the Transplant Games this year,” said Dorrie Dils, Gift of Life Michigan’s CEO. “The Transplant Games is a unique opportunity for people to honor donors and their second chance at life while serving as champions for the thousands of Americans currently on the waiting list to receive a life-saving organ transplant.”

The 2018 Transplant Games will take place August 2-7 in Salt Lake City. Thousands of recipients, donor family members and supporters from across the United States are expected to attend.

  • Participation in Team Michigan is open to recipients, donor families and supporters of donation. Learn more at
  • For more information on being a part of the Transplant Games in Salt Lake City, visit
  • Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or health history. To join, go to

Successful 14th Annual The Ride

The 14th annual The Ride event took place on Saturday, March 10 at The Lakes Mall, in Muskegon, Michigan.

Fifty-seven teams of eight people rode in this high-energy event. Riders were of all ages and abilities. Dozens of volunteers cheered the riders on as they “raised the roof” of The Lakes Mall.

[g-slider gid=”4260″ width=”100%” height=”55%” random=”0″ watermark=”0″]

WZZM13 was the lead sponsor of the event, with its own health reporter Val Lego presenting the awards to the winners on stage.

Over the past 14 years, The Ride has raised more than $500,000 for heart health at Mercy Health Muskegon. Thanks go to all of our sponsors, volunteers and riders, and especially teams representing our Mercy Health family and patients.

Funds from this year’s event will support Mercy Health cardiac rehabilitation patients, the high school student heart screening program, and heart & vascular services.

New Support for Expectant Moms, Thanks to Family Medicine Residency

Some of the first participants of Group Prenatal Care, Shaneka Morris and her baby Royalty Chilton with Ebony Bowman and her baby Ja’Moni. The women named their group, “Growing Together,” and reunited during a baby shower hosted by the Mercy Health Family Medicine Residency on March 1, 2018.

The first Group Prenatal Care participants celebrated their successful deliveries of their babies during a “baby shower” luncheon, hosted by the residents and staff of Mercy Health Family Medicine Residency, on March 1, 2018.

Differing from traditional prenatal care, through Group Prenatal Care, the educational portion of an expectant mom’s prenatal visit is done with several other mothers of similar gestational age. Together mothers can discuss their goals for childbirth, breastfeeding and any challenges they are facing. An expectant mother will still have the clinical portion of her appointment handled privately.

“I totally loved it,” said participant Shaneka Morris, who gave birth to baby girl Royalty Chilton at the end of 2017. “It was a good learning experience, where we could all communicate. Even though this is my fourth baby, it put me in touch with other moms who are going through the same thing.”

Morris also “loved the staff,” and the feeling is mutual among the members of the Family Medicine Residency team.

“It’s so humbling to be a part of this Group Prenatal Care program,” said Nirali Bora, MD, preceptor for the Family Medicine Residency program, “and just to see how much knowledge was in the room, among all the mothers.”

To get the program started, Group Prenatal Care received grant funding from Grand Girlfriends, an all-women donor group of the Saint Mary’s Foundation.

[g-slider gid=”4222″ width=”100%” height=”55%” random=”0″ watermark=”0″]

“We received a little more than $4,000 to be able to supply our mothers with educational resources,” said third-year resident Justin Blaauwendraat, MD, who led the initiative as his third-year scholarly project, with Bora serving as his faculty mentor. “This project was close to my heart as my wife and I just welcomed a baby girl in July 2017, and I was looking to improve how we delivery our prenatal continuity care requirements for residency.”

With the funds, the office purchased books on pregnancy and childbirth and created binders with information for our patients. The goal is to keep this program sustainable.

“We are already enrolling our second cohort of mothers for our Group Prenatal Care,” said Blaauwendraat.

Group Prenatal Care is a well-researched practice. According to a study by a committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published in March 2018, mothers and babies who participate in group care have better outcomes during and after delivery, and breastfeeding initiation rates are higher for moms who attend Group Prenatal Care, as opposed to control groups.

“I was really excited about meeting my breastfeeding goals with Royalty,” said Morris during the baby shower. The gathering also gave Morris and the other mothers an opportunity to see the other participants’ babies for the first time, after having undergone group care together. The group dubbed themselves, “Growing Together.”

“Oh my gosh, look at all of his hair,” said Morris to another participant, Ebony Bowman, about little Ja’Moni, who was born on Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to Bora and the other physicians and residents who contributed to the program, as they  gathered to congratulate the mothers and hold the babies:

  • Jenny Lui, MD,
  • Allison Cook, MD
  • Nirali Bora, MD
  • Justin Blaauwendraat, MD
  • Emily Schipper, MD
  • Karri MacMillan, DO

The immediate next step for the program will be to sustain its success within Family Medicine Residency through the work of Emily Schipper, who carry this project forward as her third-year residency project. Schipper’s goal is to enhance the Baby-Friendly initiatives within the prenatal care the clinic already provides.

Other next steps could include expanding the Group Prenatal Care within Mercy Health Physician Partners.

“We have heard from other OB Offices within Mercy Health Physician Partners that they might be interested in implementing Group Prenatal Care,” said Blaauwendraat. “We are very proud of this program.”

Want to support great programs like Group Prenatal Care by becoming a Grand Girlfriend or Grand Guy?


Preparing for Baby-Friendly Site Visit at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in March 2018

Newborn Elena Rose is skin-to-skin with her mom, Melissa. Elena was born at 2:12 a.m., Thursday, March 8. Skin-to-skin is an important way to bond with baby.

Being a part of an amazing birth story is the mission of the Mercy Health Birth Center at Saint Mary’s. One way to help ensure all birth stories are amazing is by preparing to become designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, with a scheduled site visit on March 15 and 16, 2018. The site visit is the final step in the extensive designation process.

Baby-Friendly is an internationally recognized designation earned by hospitals that demonstrate evidenced-base, best care practices for both mothers and babies. Growing in prevalence over the past decade, in 2007, only 3% of babies born in the US were born in Baby-Friendly designated hospitals. In 2017, more than 22% of US babies were born in Baby-Friendly hospitals.

“Patients look to deliver in Baby-Friendly hospitals because they know that our priority is to provide the best care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding,” said Mary Kooyer, BSN, RN, IBCLC, Lactation Services, who has been instrumental in guiding Mercy Health Saint Mary’s along the path to Baby-Friendly designation.

While breastfeeding encouragement and support are crucial for Baby-Friendly, the designation is not just about breastfeeding.

“Many practices that we put into place support all mothers, regardless of her feeding choice, to provide the best care she can for her baby,” said Kooyer.  “Many of the steps improve baby’s immediate health and increase mother-baby bonding.  We also ensure that all mothers know how to feed their babies in the safest way possible.”

Baby-Friendly is also important for colleagues at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

“Our goal is that any mother who is breastfeeding or pumping her breast milk, regardless of where she works in our organization, will be supported and be able to continue providing breast milk for her child,” said Kooyer.

All Mercy Health Saint Mary’s colleagues should familiarize themselves with the Institutional policy 10-226 – Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Scientific research shows the improved health outcomes and a decreased risk for certain diseases for both the mother and the baby when the mother breastfeeds.

“To support breastfeeding at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, our aim is to ensure that mothers are given important education to make an informed decision about her feeding choice,” said Kooyer. “We ensure that all mothers are treated with dignity and respect.”

Baby-Friendly designation is also a draw for recruitment and retention of staff, as it is a testament to the fact that hospitals that are designated Baby-Friendly truly care about evidenced-base, best care practices.

See below for the ten steps to successful breastfeeding that Baby-Friendly organizations uphold, as outlined by World Health Organization/UNICEF:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming in—allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.