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Marias Medical Center CEO Ward VanWichen, left, presented the first-time ever Manager of the Year award to not one, but two managers at MMC, Amber Massey,Infection Prevention and Employee Health/Wellness/Education Director, center, and Kaitlyn Tomsheck, Materials Management Director.

Marias Medical Center wrapped up 2020 with good humor and joy! We had an innovative Christmas gathering and live-streamed our annual awards. This year we added one more award, Manager of the Year, in addition to Employee of the Year. The past year has been particularly challenging for our employees with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to continuous changes in policies, supplies, protocols, and expectations. Managers selected for a dual award this year are Kaitlyn Tomsheck, Materials Management Director, and Amber Massey, Infection Prevention and Employee Health/Wellness/Education Director. Our Employee of the Year was awarded to Krista McLeod, Environmental Services.

The manager roles filled by Kaitlyn and Amber have been especially challenging this past year, and yet these two managers rose to the challenge and exhibited true excellence. 

Supplies have not always been readily available since the beginning of the pandemic, and in the spring there were items that were on severe shortage. Yet Marias Medical Center and Marias Heritage Center never felt the strain of being out of supplies. Kaitlyn had prepared our facility well as we readied for a patient surge and our facilities fortunately always had enough supplies to protect our patients and staff.  

Our community was also very supportive, and Kaitlyn took the lead on utilizing donated items in a variety of ways. Kaitlyn was able to acquire masks, gowns, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to prepare for a potential surge. All the while handling the stress and strategizing storage capacity with only one other person in her department. 

Kaitlyn has also found inventive ways to donate supplies to other facilities in need when we had the capacity. Despite only being in her position for a year when COVID-19 hit, she showed ingenuity and commitment to her work.

Amber Massey, RN, demonstrated her expertise by identifying the procedures the hospital and Heritage Center needed to have in place, and effectively communicating with staff every time there was a regulatory, policy or procedure change in the rapidly changing environment of COVID-19. She participated in webinars on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis and communicated with other counties, worked with leadership to determine the best policies for our facility in the midst of exposure among staff and residents in the spring. She was a calming presence and exuded confidence in the decisions we made to protect residents, patients, and staff. 

With her knowledge and guidance, we were able to come out of that time with minimal further exposure and without experiencing a surge within our own facility. She has also often worked the floor when needed, often after having worked a full and stressful office day, by coming back to work the night shift. There she could set an example of proper PPE usage and hand hygiene. 

In her role as Employee Health Director, she has walked several employees through the testing process when experiencing symptoms. She showed compassion and understanding when things were hard for employees and lead by example. Above all, Amber has walked us through a difficult season in an important role while showing compassionate care to employees. 

Our employee of the year was Krista McLeod in Environmental Services! Krista has worked for Marias Medical Center on and off for the past 18 years, most recently for the past three years. In that time, she has been a faithful, hard worker in both laundry and housekeeping. She has been an example of excellence in the thorough and efficient work that she performs. 

“Krista is always pleasant and easy to work with. She was incredibly helpful through COVID-19 when we had more shifts to cover. Her flexibility was invaluable,” said Diana Sonju, Assistant Manager of Environmental Services. “It doesn’t matter what department, she is so helpful.” 

When cleaning patient rooms, the patients will sometimes ask simple requests of the housekeepers and she will always drop what she’s doing to either help when she can, or get help from the patient’s nurse. Krista has a ready laugh and enjoys a joke. No matter how she is feeling on a given day, she always leaves it at the door and demonstrates strength of character. 

Krista is a mother who puts her family first; she is always thinking of them and even through the school shutdown, she found activities to keep her family going. She is also one of our resident decorators! She and a co-worker have transformed their break area every season to bring joy and fun to the staff. We are grateful to have Krista on the MMC team and to applaud her as the Employee of the Year! 

Cheers to our entire staff and to these three individuals in particular for the exceptional work!

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