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Dedication, innovation honored at RRH staff awards ceremony

A select group of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) employees, along with their families and co-workers, were honored at the annual Meritorious Award ceremonies. “There are employees who are exceptional in their value to an organization, deserving of special recognition,” said CEO Jim Suver.

Pictured are the winners of the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital 2022 Meritorious Awards

“There are almost 1,000 employees at the hospital, and tonight we are here to recognize 11 of them,” said Robert Wood, one of the presenters. “That means we are here to honor the top 1 percent, which means these individuals have truly distinguished themselves.”

Supervisors introduced recipients and noted their backgrounds and accomplishments. Several common themes ran through nearly all of the stories told that evening — that the employees being recognized were not just exemplary professionals in healthcare, but part of the fabric of our community who has embraced the lifestyle of serving a region that is geographically isolated from any other significant support.

“We were reminded how our employees worked through earthquakes, the recovery from that major natural disaster, then went right into a prolonged period of pandemic where they remained on high alert for risk of infection while navigating a continuously changing set of rules and protocols,” said Suver. 

“Over and over again, our employees put our patients needs before their own, and before the needs of their families. The word is overused, but we absolutely have some hometown heroes who deserve our recognition and our thanks.”

The winners include:

Ashley Allen, director of Visiting Nurses Service

Celia Mills and Dr. Kevin Flanigan presented the award to Allen in recognition of her improvements to the VNS/Hospice and Outpatient Rehab offices. “During this time she has assessed processes, removed inefficiencies, and vastly improved productivity,” said Mills.

“Ashley has accomplished all this with a positive attitude, modeling professional and positive behavior for her staff. She is a great collaborator, and can be relied upon to see the big picture … she is a pleasure to work with and a valuable asset.”

“Ms. Allen remains steadfast in her commitment to lead and enthusiastic in her dedication to clinical care,” said Flanigan. “Rarely does one person encompass both sides of medical care so aptly. Her energy is both contagious and inspiring.”

Amanda Booth, Rural Health Clinic manager:

“One of the reasons we are so successful in our Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) initiatives is because of Amanda’s engagement, leadership, her understanding of the ACO work, the workings of clinics, and her positive attitude,” said Mills. 

“Most importantly, she is successful because she has built an excellent team in the Rural Health Primary Care Clinic and has an excellent relationship, based on mutual respect, with her staff and providers.”

Mills praised Booth for her problem-solving abilities and ability to implement – and gain staff buy-in, for updated processes and procedures. During the pandemic emergency Booth was tireless in her efforts to manage the enormous task of providing COVID vaccinations to our staff and community “while still managing a very busy clinic.”

Armando Contreras, HR administrative assistant:

“Armando possesses an outstanding work ethic which is demonstrated daily by his enthusiasm for his job, his willingness to help anyone in need, and his natural ability to go above and beyond with almost every task assigned to him,” said Wendy Baker. 

“He is also very intelligent, able to complete complex projects with ease and on time, and is always willing to help anyone with questions. He is patient, polite, and kind … even to those who are very upset and on the verge of being rude. He is an exemplary employee and I am very lucky to have him in HR.”

Mariana Goins, registered respiratory therapist (RT):

“I do not typically nominate anyone for this honor — I absolutely agree with the guidelines this employee must be the best of the best,” said Robert Wood. 

“Mariana is patient and professional with coworkers. She is a trainer, mentor, and supervisor contributing to the training and growth of her fellow employees. She takes the time to show them unfamiliar procedures, therapies, and leads them through some of their first intubation attempts. She makes sure they are successful and competent.”

She has mastered all aspects of cardiopulmonary rehab, as well as other related disciplines and practices. She is quick to work additional shifts to support her department, and “is a top-notch leader no matter where she is working or what task is at hand … she is not just a great RT, Mariana is a superior employee.”

Jenny Jimenez, personal care supervisors (PCA):

Ashley Allen presented the award, citing Jimenez’s extreme dedication to her work.

“Jenny goes to bat for all of her clients and is very generous in ensuring that everyone’s needs are met and that they are given the best care,” said Allen. She added that Jenny does the same for the staff.

“She is patient, kind and supportive of her team at all times. A few PCAs have had a rough past year and she has supported them in ways most people wouldn’t even do for their friends.

“The pandemic has not been easy for anyone, but Jenny never let that affect her work.”

Tamra Ledbetter, referral specialist:

Kayla Buck and Grace Thatcher presented the award to Ledbetter, a 9-year employee who started as a medical assistant, on behalf of Daphne Unhassobiscay. 

“Tamra has a positive, caring attitude and is eager to help everyone. She is incredibly knowledgeable, dependable and timely with her work. Tamra’s longevity in healthcare has prepared her for one of the hardest jobs in healthcare … and she continues to give it her all.”

Marisol Lucero, certified medical assistant (CMA):

Siena Martin presented Lucero, lead CMA for the Women’s Health Clinic, with the award on behalf of Daphne Unhassobiscay. “She has proven to take initiative and responsibility daily.

“She is dependable, knowledgeable, industrious and always willing to help others. Marisol is also very compassionate and professional. The patients love her and have commented on her exceptional care on our Qualtrics Survey comments.”

Cherish Rindt, medical staff office manager:

Dr. Susan Reynolds noted in her nomination that Rindt entered her position with many challenges, including stepping into an office in disarray. Rindt was able to digitize documentation and streamline the processes for credentialing and privileges. “In these efforts she has worked well with her support staff and has demonstrated excellent management skills,” said Reynolds. 

Reynolds noted that she works with people in Rindt’s position all over the country, “And I would give Cherish an A-plus compared to her peers!”

Debbie Rogers, personnel manager:

“Debbie has managed our personnel department over the last several years and endured COVID leaves, rising wages, many new laws … Debbie was my go-to person and kept things moving. I don’t know what I would have done without her,” said Suver.

“But many of you probably don’t know the many times Debbie advocated for our employees and implemented parity adjustments. I know she cared about us retaining employees and also being fair and consistent within departments and positions … the majority of folks don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, nor recognize a brave individual trying to do the right thing even if it means saying no.”

Shawna Schiavone, registered orthopedic technologist:

Christy Johnson presented this award on behalf of Daphne Unhassobiscay, who cited Schiavone’s dedication to numerous healthcare services since starting her career on the campus back in 2008.

About five years ago she began furthering her knowledge and education in order to work with the Orthopedic Department. “She was nervous about the change but with a good attitude and great support from her team and RRH she has grown to be an even greater asset. 

“She has excelled in her position, takes initiative, is thorough and follows through with tasks to ensure the needs of the patient have been met.”

Chalise Thornton, lab director: RRH has been fortunate to have Chalise as the director of our labs, which have played a critical role during the grueling demands for testing during COVID. 

She was able to meet the challenge through the evaluation, procurement and implementation of new equipment, while also finding new sources for test equipment when suppliers were unable to keep up with the demand.

Thornton also validated the integrity of testing companies, helped define and implement policies for interpreting test results, and resolving a myriad of other challenges facing full-service labs during the additional strain of pandemic. “I can safely say we would not have made it through the pandemic with the dedication, clinical knowledge and strong leadership from Chalise,” said Suver.