President’s Award for Exceptional Patient/Customer Experience

Susan Sturgess, RD, Senior Dietitian, Hospice Care Network

As a senior dietitian at Hospice Care Network, Susan Sturgess, RD, devotes herself to educating and advocating for patients as they struggle with end-of-life issues. She is the consummate professional, demonstrating the privilege to serve whether she’s supporting a patient with nutritional concerns or reassuring a family member when a loved one stops eating.

Ms. Sturgess is an avid photographer who uses her skills to document the young lives of Hospice Care Network’s pediatric and perinatal patients. She works on her own time at night and on weekends to capture milestones, celebrate events and create memories that illustrate the importance of making every day count. This work began after Ms. Sturgess agreed to fill in at a perinatal birth for a photographer who was unable to get to the hospital on time. Her photography has been transformed into an ongoing project that is driven by her kindness and generosity.

She bears witness at baptisms, birthday parties and holidays, as well as the solemn moments when family members say goodbye to loved ones. Working with other interdisciplinary team members, she documents what families have indicated as most important to them, after listening carefully to their needs and wishes. After each photo shoot, Ms. Sturgess creates a photo book that validates a life that exists against all odds, tells a story, and provides families with lasting memories. In addition, she makes time to meet with other team members to debrief each experience. By doing so, she enables everyone to see that each patient family is unique, as is what they look for to create their child’s legacy.

Ms. Sturgess has documented a medically fragile baby’s trip to the beach to celebrate her first birthday, capturing the child’s first experience of the ocean and sand. The photos she took recorded a celebration of life. On another occasion, she recorded the short life of a perinatal baby. While the child lived for less than an hour, Ms. Sturgess captured a lifetime of remembrance for the family.

“Sue sets an example for her colleagues, enabling them to recognize that quality end-of-life care goes beyond a diagnosis with physical symptoms that need to be managed,” said Mr. Dowling. Ms. Sturgess’ photography offers families some normalcy in the midst of the turmoil that can surround illness. Her photographs aid in the bereavement process, providing reminders of a complete life journey, ensuring that those lost will not be forgotten.

For her extraordinary service, Ms. Sturgess received a crystal award and a $10,000 bonus.

Exceptional Patient/Customer Experience Nominees

  • Gladys Baez, CAN, Stern Family Center for Rehabilitation
  • Katie Bittner, RN, Palliative Care, North Shore University Hospital
  • Giorgina Caputo, Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Plainview Hospital
  • Charlene Coleman, Dietary Ambassador, Broadlawn Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • Karli Dalton, RN, 6 South, LIJ Medical Center
  • Anthony D’Annunzio, RN, Labor and Delivery, Forest Hills Hospital
  • Vlady De Los Santos, Patient Care Liaison, Emergency Medicine, Southside Hospital
  • Christine Ferraco, Coder/Analyst, Interventional Radiology, Staten Island University Hospital — North Site
  • Victoria Hagemann, MSW, The Zucker Hillside Hospital
  • Denise Hutnik, Radiology Technologist, Diagnostic Radiology, Franklin Hospital
  • Amy Karriker, Director, Pediatric Chaplaincy Program, Cohen Children’s Medical Center
  • Susana Luna, Receptionist, Radiology Department, Lenox Hill Hospital
  • Theresa Morgan, RN, High-Tech Infusion, Home Care Network
  • Jessica Palumbo, RD, Supervisor, Dietary Services, Glen Cove Hospital
  • Susan Pepe, Patient Care Technician, Emergency Services, Lenox Health Greenwich Village
  • Marissa Pisarri-Conti, Occupational Therapy Specialist, Staten Island University Hospital — South Site
  • Judy Richter, MSW, Case Management, Huntington Hospital
  • Glen Riske, RN, Emergency Medicine, Syosset Hospital
  • Arthur Rushforth, Lead Psychiatric Attendant, South Oaks Hospital
  • Barbara Thiem, RN, New Patient Nurse Navigator, Monter Cancer Center

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