If they had to pick someone to share Firestarter of the Month honors with, Karen Claypool of Morris and Michele Brewick of Coal City would undoubtedly choose each other.
What a thrill it was when the two friends were jointly bestowed with Morris Hospital’s Fire Starter of the Month honors for demonstrating role model behavior as intensive care nurses.
“Michele and Karen are two of my go-to people,” said Pam Butler, manager of the Intensive Care Unit at Morris Hospital. “They both have the traits that you look for as a manager. They are kind, compassionate and good listeners.
“They love Morris Hospital and are very dedicated to our Morris Hospital family. They can always see the whole picture and are so good at what they do. They are excellent resources and definitely role models.”
A 15-year intensive care nurse veteran, Brewick joined the team at Morris Hospital in 2001. She describes herself as an “adrenalin junkie,” which makes the ICU setting a perfect fit.
“The more complex the patient, the more rewarding it is for me,” said Brewick, who recently took on a house supervisor role at the hospital in addition to bedside nursing. “When patients come to our unit, they’re at their sickest. When they walk out, it’s very rewarding to know that we helped them get to that point.”
Brewick and Claypool had worked together at another hospital earlier in their careers, and when Brewick made the move to Morris Hospital, she gradually coaxed Claypool into joining her. Claypool came to Morris Hospital in 2008 and has been an instrumental team member ever since.
Like Brewick, Claypool also serves as a charge nurse on the 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift.
She says her nursing inspiration comes from a long family line of nurses. Her mom has been an obstetrical nurse for 37 years, her aunt is an ICU nurse, and both her husband and sister are nurses. Like Brewick, Claypool is also drawn to critical patients.
“I enjoy getting to spend more time with the patients and learning their history,” she said, recalling one particular patient who was under her care for an extensive time. “I wasn’t sure whether he was going to make it. He did, and he came back to visit and brought flowers and a note. That’s what’s most rewarding — when you see patients got better and know that you made a difference.”
Brewick and Claypool were nominated for the Fire Starter of the Month award by Dr. Jennifer Thomas, a family medicine physician at the Braidwood and Gardner Healthcare Centers of Morris Hospital, who was especially appreciative of the role the two played in assisting with the care and transfer of a teenage patient.
“The patient’s clinical situation and needs changed several times throughout the day, and Michele and Karen were always anticipating the next step that needed to be taken and had preparations made before I even had to ask,” Dr. Thomas wrote in her nomination.
“Their work demonstrated the highest degree of professionalism, efficiency and communication that I have seen in my two years as a doctor. They are clearly valuable members of the Morris Hospital staff, and I would like to acknowledge the wonderful work they do here at Morris Hospital.”
Like the typical Fire Starter, Brewick and Claypool are humble about their recognition.
“Patients are unable to do things for themselves. That’s what I’m there for. I’m here to advocate for the patient,” said Brewick. “It’s all about the golden rule. You treat others the way you want to be treated. We put our patients first. The patient in the bed is our number one priority.”
Claypool said a personal experience of her own has had a profound impact on her approach with patient care.
“I am the mother of three children, and my youngest was sick with RSV when he was little,” she shares. “I wanted everything explained to me when he was in the hospital, and that’s one thing I brought back to work with me. The experience with my son helps me to better empathize with patients and their families.”
As for the special relationship between the two nurses, Brewick said the two love working together.
“Karen and I have always been really close, probably because we have similar nursing styles,” said Brewick. “We respect each other, and she is just as proud of me for receiving this honor as I am of her. We call each other ‘lifers’ because we know we’ll be here (Morris Hospital) for life.”
In early civilizations, fire starters were the individuals who had the important job of keeping the flame alive. As Fire Starters of the Month, Claypool and Brewick each received a Grundy County Chamber of Commerce gift certificate, a special “Fire Starter” lapel pin, and a designated parking spot for the month. Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers is one of the largest employers in Grundy County with over 960 employees.