Memorial of Saint Francis, A Reflection

By Kelly Herron, MA, Mission Integration, Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland

On Friday, October 4, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. Several founders of various Trinity Health ministries celebrate this as their congregational feast day:

  • The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany NY (founders of St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg), St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, and Allegany Franciscan Ministries in Miami.
  • The Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, Stella Niagra, NY (founders of what we now call Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, OH)
  • The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (founders of what we now call St. Alphonsus Medical Center Baker City, St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, St. Francis Healthcare in Wilmington, and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Langhorne
  • The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family in Dubuque, IA (founders of St. Xavier Hospital, which merged with Mercy Dubuque in 1981)
  • The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities (founders of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse)

The Felician Sisters, founders of Saint Mary Mercy Livonia, also draw upon the life of Saint Francis and Franciscan spirituality.

So much of the Franciscan legacy inspires and challenges our ministry today, including our Core Value and sensibility of Stewardship, “We honor our heritage and hold ourselves accountable for the human, financial and natural resources entrusted to our care.”

  • How will you lead in the stewardship of the human, financial, and natural resources entrusted to your care today?

Also, while it is disputed whether St. Francis of Assisi really composed what we now know as “The Prayer of St. Francis,” its timeless message remains profound and extremely necessary in our troubled world. We have world leaders referring to nuclear weapons as if they were chess pieces.

As a final point of reflection, St. Francis of Assisi is revered as the patron saint of animals. The first nativity scene with animals in attendance is attributed to him (1225 AD). As a result, many people offer a Blessing of the Pets on his feast day.

Creator, be praised for giving us the animals, birds and fish which fill your world. May we think of you and thank You when we play with and care for our pets. Be praised for making us so happy to have our pets and to have them to play with. We ask you, Lord, that we may be good to our pets always, so that they may be happy also. Help us always to take care of them, so that they will be healthy. O God, your world is wonderful. Amen

May we be faithful to the legacies we have received…and sow peace wherever possible.

St. Francis of Assisi video links:


New Mercy Health Consumer Website to Launch This Week

This Wednesday, September 25, Mercy Health will launch our new unified consumer website. While will maintain the same URL, the site’s design has been revamped, with many improvements for patients and consumers.

Two years ago Trinity Health and representatives from ministry Regional Health Ministries (RHMs), including Mercy Health and St. Joe’s, came together to imagine and build a best-in-class website. Hours of research and user testing went into perfecting the best experience for patients and new consumers.

The new website features the following:

  • An improved user experience, based on extensive user testing and expert designers’ input
  • Simplified site architecture and improved search function; both of these will make it easier for consumers to find the information they need
  • More prominent calls to action and easier access to common tasks
  • A design that aligns Mercy Health with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and other Trinity Health hospitals

Similar site designs have already been launched at other RHMs, including Boise, Columbus, and Fresno, with very positive responses. In Michigan, Mercy Health is rolling out the improved site design first, with southeast Michigan set to launch an aligned website later this fall.

We are proud of the work that has gone into this new consumer website design, and welcome your feedback and suggestions. After the site’s launch, please visit and share your thoughts!


Caring for the Human Spirit at Mercy Health

Monica Tyler, MM, BCC, and Rev. Tracey Taylor-Kunst, M-Div, BCC, are two of the chaplains who address spiritual needs of patients, loved ones and colleagues throughout Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

“Our staff, including many physicians, are very comfortable in praying with our patients. And I believe that is why many of us have chosen to work at Mercy Health,” said MarKay Riippa, manager, 4 Lacks, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Managing the inpatient cancer and palliative care unit, Riippa has seen firsthand how important it is for all care team members to address the spiritual and emotional needs of our patients, loved ones and colleagues alike. Her sentiment is echoed by the Spiritual Care Standards set forth by Trinity Health, the parent company of Mercy Health: “Caring for the human spirit is the responsibility of everyone on the health care team; chaplains are recognized as the lead resources for the spiritual component of care.”

Guided by these standards and to improve everyday access to chaplains at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, the Spiritual Care department has been reorganized to include more continual and streamlined coverage for inpatient departments across the organization, with noticeable results. Patient satisfaction in the area of Spiritual Care has improved by 13 percentage points since May 2019, in direct correlation with the changes.

“Our chaplains now rotate to work seven days a week, including weekends and holidays, and are on-call at night, in case anyone should need them,” said Scott Opperman, director, Mission Integration, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. “Seven-day coverage has helped ensure no backlogs or that we inadvertently missed patients in need because of a scheduling gap.”

All three chaplains, Rev. Tracey Taylor-Kunst, M-Div, BCC, Monica Tyler, MM, BCC, and Rev. Joachim Adione, who serve at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s are certified health care chaplains, meaning they have specialized training for the situations that arise specific to health care. This specialization enables them to not only work with patients in crisis or urgent need, but they also provide ongoing spiritual guidance and care to patients, loved ones and colleagues.

The chaplains have also been empowered to conduct one-on-one meetings with the unit managers to collaborate to create a more patient-centric approach to spiritual care, tailored to each unit’s needs across the organization.

Responding to a specific patient population’s needs, Taylor-Kunst leads chapel services within the Psychiatric Medical Unit (PMU) once a week and spiritual growth groups twice a week. “Chapel services are Christian, while the spiritual growth groups are designed to appeal to people from different religious traditions or who are no religion, agnostic or atheist,” said Taylor-Kunst. “I adapt them each time for the attendees. Some topics include, Developing Your Spiritual Care Plan, Working through Anxiety, Working through Resentment, and I also lead our patients through various prayer and meditation exercises.”

The efforts of Taylor-Kunst are appreciated by the health care team, as noted by Carey Krause, DO, medical director of Behavioral Health: “She makes an effort to connect with patients early on, as opposed to waiting for a request or a consult. She has become an essential part of the psychiatric treatment team, and I especially appreciate Tracey’s ability to engage patients in spiritual investigation and healing while fully respecting their individual belief systems.”

4 Lacks, the inpatient cancer and Palliative Care unit, represents another department that appreciates the talents and gifts of its designated chaplain, Monica Tyler.

“Always a supportive presence on the unit, Monica leads prayer huddles vital for longevity for our staff, especially due to the moral distress that is possible with the patient population we serve,” said Riippa. “Monica and our social worker have supported staff with an event called, ‘Tea for the Spirit,’ where we gather with light refreshments to reflect upon difficult times on the unit.”

Tyler has also been part of the ELNEC (End of Life Nursing Consortium), in which the care team has recently initiated “The Pause.”  As appropriate, health care providers from the unit gather in a patient’s room after they pass and take a moment to reverently recognize their life, often with family members and loved ones.

“‘The Pause’” has bonded our staff together through this sacred moment and offers a final and touching embrace to family members,” said Tyler.

“Sometimes we will pray or just have a moment of silence to recognize the life that has passed,” said Riippa. “Monica has been a role model for our staff to just be present with patients and their family, and asking what is important to them.”

Spiritually caring for patients and loved ones does not end once the chaplains leave the room at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. According to the Standards, Trinity Health considers spiritual care to be an integral part of its mission and Catholic identity.

Opperman notes that this comfort level with spirituality is a unique designator for Mercy Health among health care facilities.

“It can be extremely reassuring to patients to have their surgeon or provider pray with them before their operation or as a normal part of their care plan, as they have an established relationship with that provider.”







Kaitlyn Averill, RN, Receives August 2019 DAISY Award

Kaitlyn Averill, who works as a registered nurse on N3/N4 at the Mercy Health Hackley Campus, is the recipient of the August 2019 DAISY Award.

On multiple recent occasions, Averill has resuscitated patients, twice in the hospital and once in a public setting. Averill indicated that RQI (resuscitation quality improvement) technology has played a role in her self-confidence during such critical situations.The following summarizes her recent life-saving measures in public:

Kaitlyn was shopping at a big-box store when she saw a crowd gather around a fellow shopper who appeared ill. Kaitlyn asked if the person had a pulse, and she immediately checked for one. That is when Kaitlyn began CPR and asked for an AED (automated external defibrillator). No one around her seemed to know what an AED was, so Kaitlyn performed CPR for 15 minutes until the ambulance arrived. Thanks to her quick action, the patient survived.

We thank Kaitlyn for her quick response both within and outside of our medical centers. Her efforts are recognized and truly appreciated by Mercy Health leaders, her colleagues and patients. Congratulations!


Mercy Day 2019 Reflection

By Sr. Myra Bergman, RSM, Mission Integration Consultant, Trinity Health Michigan

Mercy Day — Our Special Day

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1)

Catherine McAuley, a wealthy woman living in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1800s, embedded this faith belief in her personal spiritual life and compassionate community service. Catherine’s heart and spirit were deeply moved for the economically poor and vulnerable of her time. As a young woman she devoted a sizable inheritance to the building of a residence — a place which would become home for herself and for other women who shared her social concerns. It would also be a “safe house’ for orphaned children and vulnerable young women.

This residence opened on September 24, 1827, named The House of Mercy. It proved to be a significant impetus for Catherine to continue her works of mercy, eventually leading to the creation of a religious community of women — the Religious Sisters of Mercy. The spirit and mission of this new Community focused on special concern for the economically poor, the uneducated, and the sick — a focus which remains wherever Sisters of Mercy have served or continue to serve to this day.

The House of Mercy remains today on Dublin’s Lower Baggot Street as a symbol of God’s enduring Mercy, expressed through diverse ministries of the Sisters in today’s world.  For Sisters of Mercy across the world, September 24 — MERCY DAY— is a special day of remembrance and re-commitment to Catherine’s vision.

So, what does Mercy Day mean for us who serve in Mercy Health and St. Joseph Mercy Health System?

Many of our ministries have been blessed with the presence and ministry of Sisters of Mercy — as foundresses, leaders, and persons directly ministering to patients. Though changes of time and circumstances now mean that the physical presence of these Sisters has changed in our facilities, their spirit of merciful love and hospitality is embedded in our Mission, Core Values, and cultures. It remains in the heartfelt dedication of each and every person serving our health ministries.

A colleague (I will call him Joseph) shared a story that exemplifies this reality. Joseph recently was admitted to one of our Emergency Departments. He was understandably fearful and concerned about his physical condition and what the diagnostics would find wrong. Joseph’s recollection of that experience was generally positive — but what impressed him the most was the interaction of one of the physicians.   The physician, obviously sensing Joseph’s anxiety, bent down beside the gurney, placed his hand gently on Joseph’s shoulder, saying: “I am here with you!” This act of human kindness and solidarity meant the world to the patient — and has continued to touch his life and his own merciful service to those he encounters.

These kinds of loving, human interactions are exactly what merciful service is all about: They are acts of kindness that each of us can generously give each and every day — no matter what our specific job responsibilities may be.

Let us pray that Mercy Day 2019 provides an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to service as living expressions of God’s enduring merciful love for all humankind, remembering with gratitude that we, too, are the recipients of God’s mercy each and every moment of our lives.

May the example of Venerable Catherine McAuley be a source of inspiration and hope as we daily live into our Mission of merciful, compassionate love.

Simulation Lab Expands to Create More Real-life Training Opportunities for Clinical Experts

“Sepsis escape room” participants include medical residents and nurses together.

Medical experts are tasked with continuously expanding their knowledge and skills. One way that Mercy Health Saint Mary’s helps clinicians obtain expertise is through a process called simulations, where participants enact a medical event not with actual patients, but rather with the use of actors or tools called manikins. Simulations are used to prevent patient injury and to ensure the safest level of care.

Many simulations are designed to assess a clinician’s ability with an everyday core competency, such as an IV insertion. Simulations can also be used to train for highly stressful situations, such as an emergent C-section or a cardiopulmonary arrest.

“Simulations are necessary for the high-risk, low-frequency procedures, or simply to train clinical experts on the hands-on portion of medical care,” said Vicki Swendroski, MHPE, BSN, RN, CPAN, CHSE, Professional Development Specialist, Sepsis and Simulation, who helps oversee the simulation processes at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

First introduced at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s several years ago, simulation with the use of manikins was primarily used to educate nursing staff on codes, or when patients’ hearts begin to fail. Thanks to various grants from Trinity Health, such as I-Peace, and the Saint Mary’s Foundation — and thanks to a dedicated professional education staff — Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has expanded its simulation practice to become interprofessional. Medical residents, including those from Mercy Health Muskegon, nuclear medicine technologists and respiratory therapists are also included in the competency training that a manikin in a simulated disease state provides.

The simulations performed at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s include the operating room.

In the past year, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has increased the number of its manikins from 25 to 65. The simulation lab currently employs full-time Simulation Specialist, Jeff Trosper, who keeps the equipment labeled, organized and prepared for the next simulation.  A manikin can be as small as a hand or an arm, or the size of an actual person. Manikins’ “ages” range from babies to senior adults.

A manikin is “assigned” with a specific disease state, such as sepsis, or to simulate a specific process, such as an IV or a Foley catheter insertion. For example, an “arm” will be used for clinicians to practice a central line insertion, and it feels like real skin for a realistic experience for the clinician who is being trained.

Another example of simulating a real event is the “sepsis escape room.” Clinicians are given a flow chart and must discover how to “escape” by correctly diagnosing the patient within the given 30 minutes. Just as on an inpatient unit, nurses and residents work collaboratively in the escape room, each fulfilling their clinical roles to correctly diagnose the patients and administer the correct treatment.

“Training nurses and medical residents together provides a better sense for what the other members of the clinical team are responsible for, and how long sometimes these processes can take,” explained Swendroski. “This cross-collaborative educational experience enhances patient care by improving the team-based approach.”

The simulation team also performs “pop-up mock codes,” which happen randomly on units without advance warning, provide entire teams with opportunities to simulate mock codes, or heart failure. This process has helped newer nurses as well as established clinical members learn how to use new equipment or processes, and be more aware of certain diseases and diagnoses.

Nurses perform in the sepsis escape room.

Zero harm is the goal of every health care professional. Simulations are one of many ways that Mercy Health reaches toward that goal.



Ena Osterhouse Receives July 2019 Friends of Nursing Award

Ena Osterhouse, a cardiothoracic physician’s assistant on the Mercy Health Mercy Campus in Muskegon, received the July Friends of Nursing Award due to quick response and willingness to help her colleagues.

When a bleeding patient was brought into the Emergency Department, Osterhouse offered to assist the nursing staff in caring for the patient, even though she was not assigned to his care.

The colleague who nominated Osterhouse said this about her qualities: “Ena is always willing to help and go above and beyond for all patients. She has an upbeat mood and brings joy to her work environment. We appreciate her!”

Congratulations, Ena, for setting an example for others about Mercy Health’s patient-centered care.

Helpful Tips for Avoiding the Flu

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year between 5 and 20 percent of U.S. citizens contract the flu and that the virus causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and as many as 49,000 deaths?

Flu season is fast approaching and, thankfully, flu prevention begins with a variety of things we can easily do to protect our patients, our loved ones and ourselves from becoming ill.

The CDC and Mental Health America say you can do the following things to protect yourself and others from the flu:

  • Get a flu vaccine – the CDC cites the yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Talk with your doctor.
  • Take everyday precautions to stop the spread of germs – wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. They make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
  • Another great way to reduce your risk of developing illness is by maintaining a positive mental and spiritual attitude. According to Mental Health America, there is a connection between spirituality and health. Spirituality can reduce the stress that often drives illness.

When you’re being treated for, or trying to prevent a disease or condition like the flu, it may not always be easy to decide where to go for care.

For anything that is considered a life-threatening situation (like chest pain or sudden and severe pain) it’s best to go to the emergency room. For less severe matters that still require immediate attention, if you can’t get in to see your primary care physician (PCP), going to an urgent care facility can save you time and money.

Even if you require emergency or urgent care for your health situation, it’s always best to have a relationship with a PCP who knows your history and understands what is happening with your health over time. 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.

Find a Mercy Health provider

Mercy Health is committed to providing resources that promote well-being though body, mind, and spirit and is dedicated to helping you live a healthy life.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care facility that is firmly committed to maintaining fidelity to its Catholic identity by closely conforming to the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic Health Care Services., Mental Health, and the links they provide are independent sites and have no obligation to provide information that is always congruent with the ERDs. Trinity Health cannot guarantee their content and ask for your discretion when using information from these sites.


Michelle Pena, MSN, RN, Named Chief Nursing Officer for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

Michelle Pena, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, has been named Chief Nursing Officer for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. She succeeds Liz Murphy, whose last day will be November 5.

Pena began her career at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s more than 25 years ago as a staff nurse in the ED ICU. Over the years, her roles have expanded and grown to include ED nurse educator and director of Emergency Services, followed by her most recent role as Clinical Services director; Director of Emergency, Trauma and Critical Care; as well as Readiness Champion for the new Epic electronic health record go-live.

She has led a number of community initiatives, including including the creation and implementation of the only local stand-alone emergency department in our community and the development of transfer line services, which significantly improved access to our tertiary care services. Additionally, Michelle served as longtime Executive Board Member of Kent County EMS (KCEMS) and was a member of the Kent County Human Trafficking Medical Subcommittee.

A graduate of Hurley School of Nursing, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Michigan and master’s in Nursing and Health Care Management from Loyola University New Orleans.

She is an exemplary, innovative leader dedicated to quality, safety and patient satisfaction who will continue to be an advocate for the growing nursing profession. Please join me in congratulating and supporting Michelle as she assumes the role of CNO.


Mercy Health + Saint Joseph Mercy Health System Named as Key Partner in National Report

Following a roundtable discussion in March 2019 — sponsored by the national nonprofit Jobs for the Future (JFF) — a report was released highlighting how business leaders representing 22 employers and industry associations use apprenticeships as a strategy to recruit, advance and retain diverse talent.

The report is titled Growing Equity and Diversity Through Apprenticeship: Business Perspectives.

Kelly Wilczak (left), workforce program specialist, represented Mercy Health + Saint Joseph Mercy Health System at the roundtable. Both Wilczak and Shana Welch (right), executive director of Talent Acquisition, contributed to JFF’s report.

Once again, Mercy Health Human Resources colleagues have been tapped by national leaders for their expertise. Read about the many achievements of the Mercy Health Human Resources team.