Waters Joins OCH Regional Medical Center as Guest Relations Representative

Patients and visitors at OCH Regional Medical Center are being greeted by a new face as Emily Waters has stepped into the role of guest relations representative.

In this position, Waters is responsible for visiting all inpatients daily and working in conjunction with all hospital departments, such as nursing staff, environmental services, food services, business office and transporters to ensure high-quality customer service and patient/guest satisfaction.  In addition, she analyzes all data and information collected through patient/guest interactions and submits a quarterly report to administration with recommendations to improve patient care and guest relations.  Waters also oversees the Medical Center’s employee recognition program, SHiNE, which stands for Selfless Hospitality In Everyway.

Waters comes to the Medical Center from Mississippi State Department of Health where she was the district IV coordinator and administrator of the WIC program.  A 2005 graduate from Mississippi State University, Waters holds a bachelor’s of science in food science and nutrition and is a registered dietitian.

“From my previous job, I was able to see the benefit of customer service and customer satisfaction. My new position as the guest relations representative allows me the opportunity to make connections with the patients and their families and help them feel as comfortable as possible during their hospital stay,” said Waters, adding that her favorite part of her new position is meeting new people each day.

“Emily brings a unique perspective to the guest relations position because of her registered dietitian credentials.  So many of our patients are on special diet restrictions, and Emily has the knowledge to work as a liaison between the patient and our dietary staff,” explained Water’s supervisor and director of marketing Mel Thurlow.  “Emily’s friendly personality and positive outlook, along with her background makes her an asset for our Medical Center,” continued Thurlow.

Waters is married to Michael Waters of Columbus and they have two children, Ray, (4) and Lennox, (1).  Waters teaches quarterly nutrition classes at Emerson Family School and is a member of the Northeast Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition, Mississippi Dietetic Association, First United Methodist Church of Starkville, and the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville.


OCH Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center Recognized with National Award

             The OCH Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center has been recognized as a Center of Distinction, aIMG_6268 national award for clinical excellence, given by Healogics, the nation’s leading and largest wound care management company. 

            “This award was achieved by our entire team working together to provide advanced, personalized care to our patients,” said Caroline Hearnsberger, program director.  “Our focus is not just on healing wounds, but also providing a better quality of life for our patients.”

            In its first full year of operation, the OCH Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center provided over 3,000 treatments to more than 350 patients. The Center achieved outstanding clinical outcomes for 12 consecutive months, including patient satisfaction higher than 92% and a wound healing rate of at least 91% in less than 31 median days. Out of 630 Centers eligible for the Center of Distinction award, 334 achieved this honor in 2017.

            “Receiving this prestigious award is further evidence of the quality care that our patients consistently receive,” said Richard Hilton, OCH Regional Medical Center Administrator/CEO.  “By providing this program that’s the only one of its kind in our area, we are empowering patients to take control of their health and receive the care they need right here at home.”

            The Center is a member of the Healogics network of nearly 800 Centers, with access to benchmarking data and proven experience treating approximately 2.5 million chronic wounds.  Located inside OCH Regional Medical Center, the Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center offers highly specialized wound care to patients suffering from diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections and other chronic wounds which have not healed in a reasonable amount of time. Some of the leading-edge treatments offered at the Center include negative pressure wound therapy, debridement, application of cellular-based tissue or skin substitutes to the wound, offloading or total contact casts and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

            Patients do not need a referral from a physician to make an appointment.  For more information, call 662-615-2791 or visit the web page


OCH One of Two Hospitals in Southeast Chosen for Pharmaceutical Pilot Program

OCH Regional Medical Center has been selected by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. as one of only two hospitals in the Southeastern U.S. to participate in a pilot program that supports the continuity of care for patients as they move from the hospital to home.

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals is the manufacturer of Brovana, a long acting bronchodilator used for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

“The program consists of a voucher for a free two week supply of Brovana upon discharge from the hospital,” said OCH Respiratory Therapist Eddie High RRT, AE-C.  “Physicians may write a prescription for a patient, and an OCH Respiratory Therapist will secure the voucher for the patient. The voucher can be used at any participating pharmacy,” High continued.

High explained that the Medical Center was selected for the program as a direct result of the respiratory therapy department’s initiation of the reversible obstructive airway disease (ROAD) program last year.  Through the ROAD program, hospitalized COPD patients receive individualized treatment plans, one-on-one education, specialty-care referrals, pulmonary rehabilitation and access to a respiratory therapist who has been specially trained in COPD case management. The goal is to prevent emergency room rebounds and hospitalizations.

“Based on an informal survey by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, OCH is one of the more progressive hospitals in our region when it comes to proactively working to better the health of our community,” explained High, who led the training course for the ROAD program. “We are proud to be recognized for our hard work and pledge to continue improving healthcare for the people of the Golden Triangle,” stated High.

Initial data indicates that the ROAD program is decreasing the length of stay in the hospital, sending patients home healthier and better equipped to stay home and not suffer a re-admission.  These outcomes are directly in line with the mandates of the Affordable Care Act. In October 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began penalizing hospitals with excessive readmissions by reducing Medicare payments. Excess readmissions are measured by dividing a hospital’s number of “predicted” 30-day readmissions for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, hip/knee replacement, and COPD by the number that would be “expected,” based on an average hospital with similar patients. A ratio greater than 1.0000 indicates excess readmissions.

OCH Director of Respiratory Services Wes Andrews said, “Much-needed medications are not getting in the hands of patients because they cannot afford them.  This is one of the reasons we see readmissions within 30 days of discharge.  Through this pilot program with Sunovion, our team is able to implement another initiative to reduce hospital readmissions, and ultimately, help our patients live a better quality of life.”

Patients prescribed Brovana are eligible for up to two vouchers, which would yield a one month supply.  High said if a patient’s insurance won’t cover the medication beyond the 30 days, there are alternative medicines available. The pilot program runs through March 2017.  For more information about the OCH Respiratory Department, visit och.org/respiratory-care.

  HIMSS Analytics Honors OCH Regional Medical Center with Stage 6 Recognition

HIMSS Analytics recently announced OCH Regional Medical Center has achieved Stage 6 on the Electronic Medical Record Adoption ModelSM (EMRAM). This Model was developed in 2005 as a methodology for evaluating the progress and impact of electronic medical record systems for hospitals in the HIMSS Analytics® LOGIC™. OCH is one of only 23 hospitals in the state and among 29% of all hospitals in the United States to receive Stage 6 recognition.

“We recognize the strategic value of improving patient care by reaching the Stage 6 on the EMR Adoption Model,” said OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton. “OCH has made significant commitments and investments to reach this stage in order to effectively utilize information technology to improve the patient safety environment.”

“OCH Regional Medical Center achieving Stage 6 certification is testament to the commitment the Medical Center has to patient care,” stated Todd Smith, MD, OCH Chief Medical Officer. “These certifications in Electronic Health Record (EHR) shows this hospital is not only keeping current with governmental recommendations, but also exceeding them.”

Reaching Stage 6 demonstrates a near paperless medical records and is well positioned to provide data to key stakeholders, such as payers, the government, physicians, consumers, and employers in order to support electronic health record environments and health information exchanges.

As a Stage 6 hospital, OCH also has achieved a significant advancement in IT capabilities and is that positioned to successfully address many of the current industry transformations, such as meaningful use criteria in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, claims attachments for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, pay for performance, and government quality reporting programs.

OCH ITS Meaningful Use Manager Marcia Thomas, who worked diligently to help OCH achieve Stage 6, said this certification raises the standard of care that the Medical Center provides to its patients.

“Some of the requirements to achieve Stage 6 certification include the ability to view radiology images from within a patient’s chart so that the physician can make faster, more accurate decisions about the patient’s plan of care,” explained Thomas, adding that the hospital’s electronic medical record system must have reminders that encourage specific treatments for patients with certain diagnosis that are proven to improve patient care.
“We have worked very hard, and it has taken the whole Medical Center to make this happen,” said Chamath Wijewardane, CITO/Director of Information Technology Services at OCH Regional Medical Center. “While our department facilitated the integration of these systems and processes to achieve Stage 6, receiving this recognition was a team effort achieved by physicians, clinical and nonclinical staff working together to create an environment conducive to meeting ‘meaningful use’” said Wijewardane, noting that the Medical Center is making strides to meeting Stage 7.

By tracking their progress in completing eight stages (0-7), hospitals can review the implementation and utilization of information technology applications with the intent of reaching Stage 7, which represents an advanced electronic patient record environment.

“HIMSS Analytics congratulates OCH Regional Medical Center for making significant progress towards achieving advanced health IT adoption,” said John H. Daniels, CNM, FACHE, FHIMSS, CPHIMS, Global Vice President, HIMSS Analytics.  “Stage 6 represents a level of sophistication that can lead to innovative healthcare transformation.”           HIMSS Analytics is a global healthcare advisor, providing guidance and market intelligence solutions that move the industry forward with insight to enable better health through the use of IT.  As a trusted healthcare research and advisory firm, the industry depends on HIMSS Analytics’ resources, benchmarks, predictive models and assessment tools to improve decision making regarding their IT strategic roadmap and market strategy.

HIMSS Analytics, a wholly owned subsidiary of HIMSS, is the healthcare research and advisory firm for healthcare delivery organizations, IT companies, governmental entities, and financial, pharmaceutical, consulting and emerging technology solution partners worldwide.  Visit himssanalytics.org for more information.


OCH Earns ‘A’ Grade for Patient Safety from Leapfrog

OCH Regional Medical Center has received an “A” rating for patient safety by The Leapfrog Group, making it one of 798 of the nation’s safest hospitals and one of 12 in the state to reach this top level. The Leapfrog Group is a national patient safety watchdog and assigns A, B, C, D and F letter grades to hospitals nationwide based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.

“This ‘A’ rating from Leapfrog is a reflection of the hard work by our entire staff and our commitment to making patient safety a priority,” said OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton.  “Our Medical Center is the only facility in Northeast Mississippi that holds the prestigious International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008 certification, which demonstrates, through continuing quality process improvements, how we strive daily to minimize risk of injury and to deliver safe, effective high-quality patient care,” continued Hilton.

Developed under the guidance of Leapfrog’s Blue Ribbon Expert Panel, the Hospital Safety Score uses 30 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign A, B, C, D and F grades to more than 2,500 U.S. hospitals twice per year. It is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer-reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public. For the first time, the Hospital Safety Score includes five measures of patient-reported experience with the hospital as well as two of the most common infections, C.diff and MRSA.

“Avoidable deaths in hospitals should be the number one concern of our health care leaders. Hospitals that earn an ‘A’ from Leapfrog are leaders in saving lives, and we commend them and urge their continued vigilance,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.


Landreneau Joins OCH Rehab Services Team, Offers Specialized Service

OCH Rehab Services at OCH Regional Medical Center has recently welcomed a new physical therapist to the team. Lindsey Landreneau moved to Starkville from Thomasville, Georgia, where she worked at South Georgia Spine and Joint Rehab Center.
Landreneau, PT, DPT, MTC, received her physical therapy degree at Alabama State University in Montgomery in May 2014.  In order to better serve her patients, Landreneau earned her manual therapy certification in December 2015 from the Florida Institute of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy in Gainsville, FL.  Receiving this certification included completing 150 hours of course studies over a year and passing an extensive two-part examination. Landreneau described manual therapy as a “hands-on approach at correcting joint dysfunction” and said almost anyone can benefit from this type of therapy.

“Completing this coursework gave me a deeper understanding of orthopedics and how to choose the best optimal stimulus for healing based on the type of tissue involved, as well as what phase of healing the tissue is in,” stated Landreneau, adding that she has a special interest in treating the spine and TMJ.  “It’s so rewarding when my patients tell me, ‘I’ve only had one headache this week,’ as opposed to them having one every day, or when they say ‘I’m pain free,’ or ‘I had a great night’s rest,’” continued Landreneau.

Landreneau is a native of Albany, Georgia.  Prior to pursuing her PT degree, she received her bachelor’s of science in athletic training from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, in 2010.  During her down time, Landreneau said she enjoys running, playing with her dog, Jackson, and has recently started playing golf.

“I’m really excited about being here in Starkville and applying my manual therapy skills to treat our patients at OCH Rehab Services.  The staff has been so great to work with, and the environment is so warm and welcoming!” said Landreneau.

Landreneau is available by appointment Monday – Wednesday and Friday from 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Patients must have a physician referral to make an appointment.  For more information about physical therapy services at OCH, call 662-615-3020 or click here.


Treatment for Speech/Language & Swallowing Disorders Help Improve Quality of Life

The ability to speak, hear, and understand language and conversation are central to almost every aspect of daily life. Yet, these skills are often taken for granted until they are lost.  For older Americans, communication disorders are among the most common challenges they may face. Unfortunately, these disorders may go untreated for years—or may never be treated.

“When someone’s communication ability, whether comprehensive or expressive, is affected it puts them in a vulnerable position,” said Laurel Jones, OCH Rehab Services Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. “They can’t always make their own decisions. So, depending on the severity, someone has to assist them with daily living.  Loved ones, such as a spouse or adult child, are often significantly affected by a family member’s communication difficulties. These loved ones are also the people who are in the best position to influence the decision to seek treatment,” explained Jones.

In the areas of voice, speech, and language, many disorders may affect older Americans. Some may be the result of another health condition, and some may occur on their own. Aphasia (a loss of the ability to use or understand language) is most common in people in their middle to late years. Difficulty with speech and swallowing (both issues treated by speech-language pathologists) may result from medical conditions such as stroke or oral cancer. Treatment for these disorders is critical to daily functioning and improved quality of life.

Jones said too often, lack of treatment or treatment delays are due to myths about certain disorders, such as “they are just part of the normal aging process.”

“What I enjoy most about my position as a speech-language pathologist is when a patient learns how to communicate again because that is so critical to living and enjoying life. It’s not just about surviving but thriving,” stated Jones.

Jones and Licensed Speech Language Pathologist Lori Windle at OCH Rehab Services offer treatment for child speech and language delays or disorders; stuttering or “fluency” disorders; voice disorders; dysphagia (swallowing disorders); and cognitive impairment, aphasia, and dysarthria (disorders resulting from a stroke).  Jones and Windle are both certified by the American Speech Language-Hearing Association.  In addition, the certification qualifies them to evaluate, diagnose and treat a broad range of delays and disorders in their patients. They work with each patient individually to custom design a program that will help the patient become as functional and independent as possible.

“Serving as a speech language pathologist is the perfect blend of counseling, teaching, and advocating,” said Windle.  “Our goal is to not only treat our patients’ disorders, but also to develop a long term relationship with them and their families and create a light in the darkness.

Jones and Windle host regular Stroke Support Group meetings at OCH Regional Medical Center. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15 from 10 – 11 a.m. in the OCH Community Room and is free and open to the public.

For more information about OCH Rehab Services speech therapy services, which are available for children and adults of all ages, visit och.org/speech-therapy, or call Jones or Windle at (662) 615-3030. For an appointment, contact your personal physician.  All therapy provided through the OCH Rehab Services Department requires physician referral.


OCH Regional Medical Center Provides Summer Volunteer Program for Students

OCH Regional Medical Center will host a junior auxiliary interest meeting for students ages 13-18 who wish to volunteer at the Medical Center this summer.  Junior volunteer opportunities include front desk receptionist, visiting patient rooms and helping in the gift shop.

“During the summer, our regular auxiliary members take a break from their volunteer duties while students in our community donate their time to serve the hospital and its patients,” said OCH Volunteer Services Coordinator Lauren Gardner.  “Volunteering also provides valuable work experience for these students.  Many of our junior volunteers have an interest in working in the medical field one day, and this gives them a better understanding of what it’s like to work in a hospital-setting,” continued Gardner.

The summer junior volunteer interest meeting will be held Tuesday, May 31 at noon in the nursing classroom.  New members must purchase an apron for $15. For more information, contact Gardner at 662-615-3065 or lgardner@och.org.


OCH Unveils App for Apple Products


OCH Regional Medical Center recently released an app to make access to the Medical Center’s information more accessible to users. The app was created by faculty from the information technology service (ITS) department at OCH.

“When you look at businesses today, everything is going mobile, so we felt that an app would be a great way to connect with the community and our patients by giving them easy, quick access to our services,” said OCH ITS Director/CITO Chamath Wijewardane.  “We’re proud to be one of the few smaller, rural hospitals to jump out there and make this happen,” added Wijewardane.

The app provides a wealth of knowledge for the users at a touch of a button such as, clinics, physicians, services, contact information, and even the hospital cafeteria menu.

“The app is beneficial for not just patients, but also visitors and caregivers who may need additional information such as wayfinding or clinic hours,” said OCH ITS Senior Interface Programmer Mike Kerr, who was instrumental in the app’s development.

To download the app, go to the Apple App Store and search for OCH Regional Medical Center.



OCH Cardiac Rehab: Celebrating 30 Years of Healthy Hearts

Twenty-eight years ago, Carl Nickels walked into a much different cardiac rehab department than the one he attends today.  After suffering from a heart attack in 1988, Nickels was referred by Ben Sanford, MD, to the OCH Cardiac Rehab program.  At that time, the two-year-old program was housed in the hospital’s basement and had only a few pieces of exercise equipment.  Nearly three decades later, the program, which is now housed inside the OCH Healthplex, boasts treadmills, arm ergometers, nustep, tectrix and air dyne bikes, but the changes over the years are much more far reaching than the eye can see.

“I’ve seen the program grow from a couple of bikes and an old rowing machine in the hospital basement to numerous machines in a nice facility,” said Nickels.

The program launched in February 1986 under the direction of Missy Staggers, RN, and Dr. Sanford as the medical director.  For 11 years, cardiac rehab patients met in the hospital basement before the program was moved inside the OCH Healthplex in July 1997, with Elizabeth Varco, RN, as the program director.  But far more has changed than just the location and type of equipment.

“Technology has improved cardiac rehab tremendously,” stated Varco.  “Patients can now exercise and have their hearts monitored simultaneously, and we have a program that records our patients’ exercise sessions and monitors each person’s telemetry.  That has made the program much more efficient,” she explained.

Varco said changes in insurance coverage has also played a big role in the number and type of her patients.

“We’re seeing a lot of patients with more serious heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, because insurances are now covering cardiac rehab for those patients.  In the past, insurance companies would not cover cardiac rehab, and now, the program is covered by most all insurance companies,” said Varco.  “Patients see the benefits to being active and can build up their strength and have a better quality of life instead of just sitting at home,” she continued.

“We have a comradery in here,” said Nickels.  In other words, I’m not the only one who has a problem,” laughed Nickels as he sat on a stationary bike during one of his regular appointments.

“A lot of the patients stay with us for years in the last phase of the program, so we become more like a close knit family.  There’s really a bond that develops between the patients and the staff,” said Varco.

There are three phases of the cardiac rehab program.  The first phase takes place in the hospital for cardiac diagnostic testing or after a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, or balloon angioplasty.  Educational materials are provided to the patient and their diet and activity are supervised.  During the second phase, patients begin an individualized outpatient exercise program that is monitored during cardiac rehab appointments.  This phase lasts anywhere from one to four months.  Throughout each session, the participant’s blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac rhythm are monitored closely.

“Some patients start the program very functional, but they may need improvement in the way they take care of their health.  For others, walking in our building is a major accomplishment,” said Varco.  “One of the main purposes of cardiac rehab is to not only prevent further progression of disease, but also to enhance quality of life, so that when participants go home, they can do the things in life that are important,” explained Varco.

The last phase of the program, which is also known as the maintenance program, includes a personalized exercise routine three times a week with limited supervision to encourage independence.  Registered nurses monitor the participant’s blood pressure before and after exercise and obtain a report of their heart rate and rhythm.

Nickels said he quit the phase three part of the program in 2010 to take care of his wife, and the results were detrimental to his health.

“I bought an exercise bike and was going to use it, but that didn’t work out.  I almost died.  When I got back in cardiac rehab, I was suffering from congestive heart failure, obesity, and all of the above.  Liz looked at me and said, ‘Welcome back!’” said Nickels.

Like Nickels, Bob Singletary also knows how important cardiac rehab is to his health. He joined the cardiac rehab program in September 2013, after he had surgery to remove an aneurysm his ascending aorta.

“Going to cardiac rehab is almost like seeing a doctor three times a week, but it’s more fun!  They monitor my heart rate and blood pressure, and I also receive information on diet and nutrition,” said Singletary.  “I highly recommend this program, which does a wonderful job in recovery and maintenance of health and strength,” he continued.

As the medical director of the cardiac rehab program for the span of its existence, Dr. Sanford said the program helps him monitor his patients more closely.

“The EKG (electrocardiogram) monitoring picks up any problems that I need to know about sooner than if the patient waited to schedule an appointment in my office.  Also, Liz keeps a close eye on the lists of medications the patients take, and she lets me know if they’re really taking their medicine like they should,” said Dr. Sanford, adding that the biggest change he’s seen over the last 30 years is the advancements in medicine.

“Most recently, a new injectable treatment on the market helps lowers cholesterol an additional 50%.  Advancements in procedures are helping patients to avoid surgery, and better surgeries are allowing patients to get out of the hospital much more quickly and into cardiac rehab,” continued Dr. Sanford.

“Thirty years is a major accomplishment, and we’ve come a long way,” said Varco. Any time a person’s health improves, it makes an impact on all of society. Because of this program, our patients can now work, participate in Sunday school, visit with their families and play with their grandchildren.”

If you are interested in joining the cardiac rehab program, call (662) 615-2625 for an appointment.  Your physician will then be contacted for approval and to obtain necessary medical records.  For more information, visit och.org/cardiac-rehab.

A Love Story at “The Lounge”

Working is not the optimal way to spend your first wedding anniversary and certainly far from romantic, but a group of nurses at OCH Regional Medical Center got creative to make sure that their coworkers’ first anniversary was one they won’t forget.

Matt and Alison Woods spent their one-year wedding anniversary providing care for their patients at OCH.  Matt, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit, and Alison, a registered nurse in labor and delivery, said they didn’t mind spending their special day caring for others.

“It wasn’t ideal, but we were here together so that made it special,” said Alison Woods.

The two met at East Central Community College in 2008.  He was in his second year of college and played the saxophone in the band, and she was a Centralette just starting her journey to become a RN.  After college, both went to work at the Medical Center and later married on January 24, 2015, a date very special to them as her grandparents celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on that day.

One year later, they started their milestone anniversary by working their 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift in their respective units at the Medical Center.

“I got Matt an omelet from the hospital cafeteria and brought it to him because it was our anniversary.  I mentioned it to the nurses on my floor, and that’s when it all got started,” said Alison Woods.

“Your first anniversary is so special, so we wanted to do something nice for them,” said labor and delivery surgery tech Bella Oswalt who has been married for 10 years, the longest of the group.  “Your wedding is usually a blur, and most other anniversaries are spent going out to eat or to see a movie, or maybe not doing anything. But you always remember your first anniversary,” said Oswalt.

After checking with the house manager, fellow L&D RN Haley Smith clocked out and headed to Walmart.  In 30 minutes, she was back with wedding pictures printed off from Facebook, sparkling water, flameless tealights, a table runner, signs, plastic champagne flutes and plate chargers.

“Walmart was empty because it was during church hours, and we had a very detailed list so we could get back quickly.  We were at the wedding, so we added a few personal touches to remind them of their wedding day,” explained Smith.

Oswalt got busy making “flowers” and a “chandelier” out of tulle she had stashed away in her locker.

“Bella is the creative one.  She always has a bag of tricks,” said L&D RN Kadie Fancher.

“I knew they were up to something, but they wouldn’t let me look,” explained Alison Woods.

What Alison didn’t know was that her coworkers were transforming the nurses’ breakroom into an “upscale restaurant” called “The Lounge,” complete with decorations and signs directing the bride and groom to their destination.  A medical suction bucket acted as a “wine bucket” for the sparkling water and a menu detailed their anniversary dinner which included, cheddar chex mix hot ‘n spicy as the appetizer, pulled pork with cole slaw and “fatteningly fried french cut potatoes” as the main course, and chocolate covered strawberries.firstanniversary

Once the transformation was complete, Alison was led to “The Lounge” where she waited for her husband.

“After I made sure my patients were stable and in good hands with a respiratory therapist and nurse, I went up to Alison’s unit,” said Matt Woods.  “I was in utter shock and pleasantly surprised,” he added.

To top off their anniversary date, “At Last” by Etta James, the song they danced to at their reception, was playing in the background, while Fancher, Smith and Oswalt stood by with their phones to capture the moment.

“It was so nice and thoughtful of them.  Being so close to my coworkers makes it fun to come to work.  I love my work family,” said Alison Woods, jokingly adding that her coworkers went through all the trouble because they actually love Matt more!

“I just try to be nice to everyone,” he said.  “This hospital is like family.  I spend more time with my coworkers than I do with family,” continued Matt Woods.

Truth be told, the couple is equally loved and recognized regularly by their patients and coworkers.

One patient praised Alison in a satisfaction survey writing, “Alison was with me all morning when I was in labor, and even after her shift was over, she stayed with me so that she could be there to help deliver my son.  She was patient and anticipated my needs.  She explained everything that was happening and answered mine and my husband’s questions.”

In December, Matt found an extra Christmas tree in the hospital to put in a patient’s room, along with Christmas music, to help cheer the patient up and feel more at home during the holidays.

“He’s a very good nurse.  He takes care of me when I’m sick, and he’s more nurturing than I am,” admitted Alison Woods.

The couple didn’t actually eat their anniversary dinner together.  Matt took his food back to his unit to be with his patients.  But this Valentine’s Day, the couple will have the day off together, and they plan to relax at home with their cockapoo, Millie, go out to eat and to the movies.

“We chose this career because we’re passionate about nursing,” said Alison Woods. “As nurses, we both understand that celebrating holidays with our loved ones is not a guarantee, and that’s okay with us.”



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