Thursday, May 28, 2015

Proud to work at CoxHealth: Robin Kennedy

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Robin Kennedy, Wheeler Heart and Vascular Center

In 2006, Robin Kennedy developed a nasty cough over a weekend. At urgent care, the team initially suspected pneumonia. Her blood work soon showed something different: she was having a heart attack.

“I was 46 years old and I had never had any heart problems,” she says. By the time she was in the Emergency Department at Cox South, she was having a second heart attack. “CoxHealth saved my life. When I look back now, it’s scary to see how unsure they were about whether I was going to live.”

She had heart surgery and lung surgery and then began a difficult period of rehabilitation and recovery. She was on disability, but she wanted to get back to work. She started looking for positions in insurance support, a field she had worked in before her heart attack.

By chance, a position came open in Cardiovascular Services in the summer of 2013.

“The doctors in 2006 told me I might never work again, but now here I am.”

Kennedy recalls the first time she saw Dr. Danny Penick at work. Dr. Penick had been on duty when she came into the ER in 2006. Now, she was on the elevator with him.

“I turned to him and said, ‘Do you know you saved my life?’ He said, ‘Really? You look like you’re doing well now.’ I said, ‘Yes, and I’m working for you!’”

Kennedy says she is proud each day to do work that supports physicians like Dr. Penick and Dr. Mark Anderson, who did one of her surgeries.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for me,” she says. “The team atmosphere here is different than anywhere I’ve ever worked. I can’t remember being happier. Every day, I see employees caring about one another. I feel like I know these people not just as co-workers, but as friends.”

Proud to work at CoxHealth: Steven Boynton

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Steven Boynton, Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital

Steven Boynton says working alongside the team at Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital gives him reason to be proud every day.

Boynton recalls a recent morning when he had a patient with a unique set of complications that were requiring a lot of his time. He wasn’t behind schedule yet, but he knew that it was a risk.

That’s when two colleagues stepped in to offer their support and make sure he was supported and that all the unit’s patients were cared for.

“Before we even get into a problem, (nurse) Kenna Bishop came up and asked, ‘What can I do to help you out? Can I take one of your patients off your hands?’” Boynton says. “You expect small things from your co-workers, but when a nurse offers to take patients off your hands, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is someone who’s going above and beyond to help me.’”

Meanwhile, assistant nurse manager Jamie Trythall stepped in to assist with the morning’s medication pass, making sure that everything stayed on schedule.

“I wasn’t even asking for help yet, but they’re in there. They have your back, they’re like buddies in a foxhole.”

That camaraderie is a big part of what makes Boynton proud to work at CoxHealth.

“When I drive to work in the morning, I know that I’m going to be taken care of and they’ll cheerfully support me. I’m there for them as well – it’s like we have the 15 musketeers here.”

The team at the orthopedic hospital has made for a great start to a new career for Boynton. His role on the unit was his first job out of nursing school.

After he served in the Marine Corps, Boynton and his wife moved from California to be closer to family. That’s when he decided to re-train as a nurse. He received an Auxiliary scholarship to attend Cox College in exchange for committing to three years working with CoxHealth. He finished those three years in December, and he says that’s just the beginning of his career.

“I’m very happy with my employment – I’m so happy I’ve tried to make myself a more useful asset. I’ve gone on to get my basic and advanced life support certifications and an NIHSS stroke certification and I recently became board certified in med-surg nursing,” he says. “I’m trying to pay back some of what CoxHealth was so generous to give to me.”

Boynton says his colleagues and leaders like nurse manager Becky Fisher have created an atmosphere of teamwork and cheerful support that is a big part of the unit’s high performance.

“You hear horror stories about nursing, but you’re not going to hear those here. That’s why I’m proud to work at CoxHealth.”

Skaggs Foundation awards $30,500 in scholarships to local students

Skaggs Foundation made a $30,500 investment in the future of the health care industry this spring by awarding 30 scholarships to Taney, Stone and Boone county students pursuing degrees in health care.
The scholarships are for the summer and fall 2015 semesters. Among the 30 scholarship recipients, 20 recipients are employees of Cox Medical Center Branson.

“We believe that the best way to ensure the health care industry has a bright future and able to meet the long-term needs of our community is to support education today,” said Tim Nichols, Skaggs Foundation president.

Since its inception in 2002, Skaggs Foundation has awarded a total of $196,950 to 87 students pursuing degrees in health care.

Students who plan to apply for financial assistance from Skaggs Foundation for the spring 2016 semester have until Nov. 1, 2015, to apply.

For more information about Skaggs Foundation or its scholarship program, visit

Proud to Work at CoxHealth: Sharon McLain

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Sharon McLain, Labor and Delivery, Cox South

In the fifteen years Sharon McLain has been a nurse, she’s worked in units in Missouri and Florida, but she says she’s never seen teamwork like what she now experiences daily in Labor and Delivery at Cox South.

“It’s a different atmosphere here – our doctors, nurses, techs and Environmental Services crews are all working together to do the best for our patients,” she says. “Everybody pulls together to get the best quality of care for our patients.”

McLain says physicians and nurses work closely together and efforts like TeamSTEPPS and reorientation training that includes the entire team help foster a collaborative environment.

“The doctors trust us and we trust them. Everyone has a sense of putting the patient first.”

That patient focus is what originally drew McLain to nursing. When she entered the field, she knew she wanted to be at the bedside.

She spent time in orthopedics and on 700 East at Cox South, but since nursing school she had been interested in working in Labor and Delivery. It took a few times applying, but when she got the opportunity to join the L and D team in 2009, it was a dream come true.

“This is the best place to be in the hospital, surrounded by happy babies and happy mommies,” she says. “Everybody here loves their job.”

She loves the babies and being part of a special moment in a family’s life. She likes seeing a new dad’s tears of joy and she’s proud of the care she provides for new moms.

“The times when I am able to act as a real advocate for my patient are times when I feel like I’m in the right place.”

She says CoxHealth is the right place to practice, both for the teamwork and for our sense of innovation.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve and ways to be the best,” she says, noting our pursuit of Magnet status and L and D’s “Show-Me 5” baby-friendly hospital project. “We’re always trying to keep climbing and we’re never satisfied with the status quo.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Registration for Medical Explorer program begins July 13

Since 1968 CoxHealth Medical Explorers has provided a non-traditional educational opportunity for students, ages 15-20 deciding if a health care career is something they’d like to pursue in the future.

Now is the best time to start thinking about becoming a CoxHealth Medical Explorer! Registration for the fall session begins July 13. The deadline to register is August 21, 4 p.m. Once approved for the program, Medical Explorers membership is good for one year.

Registration forms and a list of additional requirements are available online at this link.

Cox Branson to host blood drive May 29

Blood donors are known for their selfless giving but when they give during an upcoming drive at Cox Medical Center Branson, they will be able give and receive. Through Community Blood Center of the Ozarks’ LifePoints Rewards Club program, donors have the opportunity to collect points each time they donate. Those points may be redeemed online for gift items and cards from popular merchants, both local and nationwide.

Cox Branson will host its next Community Blood Center of the Ozarks blood drive from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, May 29, in the Tree Rooms. To learn more about the LifePoints Rewards Club or to register to earn LifePoints, visit

Donors to Community Blood Center of the Ozarks provide all of the blood for patients at 39 area hospitals, including Cox Medical Center Branson.

According to Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, every seven minutes on average, a transfusion takes place and it takes approximately 230 donations each day to meet the area’s blood needs.

To be eligible to give blood, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and present a valid photo ID. Anyone planning to give is encouraged to eat well and drink plenty of fluids prior to the blood drive. For more information about the blood drive, please visit or call 800-280-5337.

To give blood, stop by Cox Medical Center Branson, 525 Branson Landing Boulevard, between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday, May 29. Each donor will receive a gift courtesy of CoxHealth, while supplies last.

Teen volunteer program accepting applications

CoxHealth Volunteer Services is accepting applications for its teen volunteer program for the summer.

Students 15 years of age and older, interested in volunteering time at either Cox North or Cox South can fill out and submit an application at this link. Call 417-269-4169 for additional questions.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Join us for the Medical Mile and 5K on May 30

It's time for the annual Medical Mile and 5K benefiting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. The event is for everyone -- all ages, casual walkers to serious runners.

Saturday, May 30, 2015
Rain or shine
Mile begins at 7 a.m.
5K begins at 7:45 a.m.

Click here to see full details on and to register for the event.

A Q&A with Eric Clay, CoxHealth's security director

As long as he can remember, Eric Clay has sought out the best place to serve.

That desire motivated him to join the U.S. Army after high school as a way to gain new experiences and see the world beyond his hometown of Springfield.

After serving in the military, he began a career in law enforcement, working in Missouri and Florida before moving into private security – as a contractor in international hotspots and back in the U.S. as director of security at Disney World.

The unique experiences he had hoped for as a teenager began to add up quickly:

· He was among the first group of air marshals.
· He provided security in more than 35 countries.
· He’s negotiated with village leaders in rural Afghanistan.
· He helped build a school in northern Iraq.
· He’s been a bodyguard for Ariana Grande, Shaquille
O’Neal and Colin Powell.
· He’s had his entire wardrobe forcibly replaced by a
baroness in Hungary.

As he carried out his duties at Disney, he began to look for a new opportunity: a chance to come home. He and his wife wanted to be close to family; when the director’s position opened at CoxHealth, it seemed like the perfect fit.

About 100 days into his tenure, we sat down with Eric for his take on what it means to serve the hospital where he and his children were born. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How did you begin your career?

As a young man, I worked so hard to get out of Springfield (laughs). I was convinced that Springfield was too small for me, so much so that I joined the Army to get away. I always wanted something bigger. Even when I first started as a police officer in St. Louis, I knew I wanted to be a fed at some point. I was always looking for something where my playground was bigger. I’ve been very fortunate – doors kept opening for me that allowed me to do a lot of different things.

Q: How did you come to work in security?

I was in law enforcement on Sept. 11, 2001. After that, I wanted to contribute in a greater way, like most everyone did. The FAA was looking for air marshals and I applied for the program. I was one of the first few hundred who got hired.

So, I was working for Homeland Security and I was based in Dallas, but my family was in Orlando. I tried to get a transfer to Florida, but then an opportunity in international security came up with (private security contractor) Blackwater. They offered more money and more time at home with my family, and a chance to still serve my country.

Q: What was that like?

From 2005-2010, I worked in 35 different countries, everywhere from nice areas – Germany, Italy, the U.K. – to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan – places that aren’t quite as nice. They have their own charm, but they’re more dangerous. I never would have envisioned doing something like that, but it was great. I got to experience cultures I never would have seen if I had stayed in law enforcement.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing you learned from those experiences?

It was definitely an education for me. It taught me how to accomplish things in difficult environments. In Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re hundreds of miles from a major city and you’re dealing with a small group of tribesman. Just from interacting with them, I learned how to make what I wanted to accomplish something they wanted to accomplish. I looked for commonalities in how we could get things done.

I learned a lot about diplomacy and how building relationships with people allows you to do a lot more than you could without those skills.

Q: What brought you back to work in the United States?

When I interviewed for the job at Disney, I planned to come back to Florida to go to law school. I attended for a year before deciding I couldn’t work full-time, be a parent full-time and be a full-time student. I wanted the law experience because I want to get into politics – I actually aspire to be a congressman.

Q: What drives that political ambition?

I have a desire to contribute and Congress would be a good opportunity to do something on a national scale. Eventually, I would aspire to go even higher than Congress.

I have a friend who’s a federal judge who has warned me about politics and encouraged me to “be the guy behind the scenes, not the guy.” But, I’ve been involved in public service from a young age and I don’t think I’d be content behind the scenes. I’d want to be someone who could actually implement change.

Q: What does your typical day off look like?

My wife enjoys working on furniture. By extension, that means I enjoy working on furniture (laughs). My weekends are usually: gym first thing in the morning, breakfast, and then we go to estate sales or flea markets where she looks for pieces of furniture that she can work on.

I also like to volunteer – I spend time in Child Life on my lunch, I work with Habitat for Humanity, Cub Scouts, and I’m a reserve deputy sheriff. I like to find ways to give back.

Q: What’s something people are surprised to learn about you?

I have more clothing than my wife does. I have a huge closet. She’s not real happy about that.

Q: How did you get into fashion?

When I was working overseas, I worked some in oil exploration. On one assignment, I was working for a baroness in Hungary. I had just bought a new suit that I thought was fantastic. She disapproved.

She took me to a store and told me to throw away the entire suit, tie, shoes, everything. She bought me some clothes and said, “From now on, these are the clothes you will wear.” I bought a lot of clothing that met her specifications and it’s continued from there. I couldn’t believe I was throwing away everything I had just purchased before I flew over there! But, she purchased me some nice things, so I couldn’t really complain at that point.

Q: What’s it like to be home?

As I’ve gotten older, I see that Springfield is my home. My daughter, my grandson and my siblings are here.

I was born here, my kids were born here and I’m very happy to be part of the system. My wife
worked as a nurse in Labor and Delivery for years, we know what a great place it is and we’re very happy to be here.

On the job: the first 100 days

Q: What has the new role been like so far?

Health care is a lot different than the entertainment world, but it’s similar to Disney in that we want to provide a secure environment that is open and welcoming to the families who come here.

It’s a big job – I’ve been traveling to Monett and Branson and working to create a standardized department that provides the same level of service on all of our campuses.

There was an opportunity to get people working more closely together and I’m enjoying seeing the department become a team. It’s great for the system to have a well-oiled, focused machine that is doing a lot to improve our safety.

Q: What are some of the first changes you've pursued in the department?

We’ve changed scheduling to make better use of our resources and we’ve created new positions to create a career ladder within the department.

We’ve added sergeant positions to ease people into supervisory roles. We also created a major position, the second most senior position, to handle day-to-day operations, allowing me to spend more time in Branson and Monett.

Everybody has been great to work with, from the administration on down. The team has been amazing in trying out new things and helping make these changes.

At a glance: Eric Clay’s ‘most recents’

Most recently read:
“Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror”

Most recently watched: “We Steal Secrets,” a documentary on Wikileaks. “I watch a lot of documentaries. Some emails I was involved in were released by Wikileaks, so I have an interest in what they do.”

Most recently listened to: Satellite radio in the car – usually Fox News. For music, it’s the iPod at the gym – “The iPod is mostly Metallica and Judas Priest. That’s what I listened to in high school.”

Proud to work at CoxHealth: Debbie Creed

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Debbie Creed, Cox Monett

Debbie Creed was 16 when she first started working at Cox Monett. She grew up just two blocks away and remembers riding her bike past the hospital almost daily.

She worked some other part-time jobs during high school, but she quickly decided the hospital was where she needed to be. She returned in 1973 and has been at Cox Monett ever since.

“The minute there was a nurse’s aide class offered, I took it. I knew immediately it’s what I wanted to do. I enjoyed everything about being with patients and taking care of patients.”

She knew she was in the right place the day when she, still a teenager herself, helped care for an 11-year-old boy who had been in a tractor accident.

“They didn’t expect him to make it. He was in the hospital for three or four months,” she says. “It was such a scary thing, but he survived and walked out of here. I saw him off and on the rest of his life – he got to grow up, get married and have kids.”

As she began her adult life, she moved to a new house, but the hospital was still at the center of her world. In fact, her home now is still just blocks away from Cox Monett.

“This is a true small town. I care for patients and they are people I know or I know someone in their family,” she says. “It makes you feel good. I enjoy what I do; getting paid is a bonus.”

Creed says that after 41 years as a nursing assistant at Monett, she’s still proud to serve her community and be a part of the CoxHealth family.

“I’ve known so many people who have worked here and I’ll be friends with them long after I retire.

“People ask, ‘How can you stay at the same place?’ If you love what you do, the people you work with and the place where you work, it’s easy!”

Proud to Work at CoxHealth: Konnie Brewer

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Konnie Brewer, Cox Branson

Konnie Brewer already loved working for the Branson hospital long before a terrible motorcycle accident took her from being an employee to a patient.

“My husband said one minute I was right behind him and the next I wasn’t,” she said referring to the day in 2011.

In the accident, Brewer’s face was broken in eight places, she suffered three ruptured discs in her neck, a spinal cord contusion and a traumatic brain injury. Brewer was life-flighted from Omaha, Ark., to Mercy in Springfield.

“My family wanted me here,” Brewer said.

After three weeks in Springfield, Brewer was transferred to Branson where she spent the next month in rehab. In Springfield, she had been given the devastating news that she might not walk again.

“Here, they helped me walk again,” Brewer said. “They gave me so much and I want to give them something back.”

In rehab, she was constantly encouraged.

“I was often told, ‘You can do it. You just have to realize you can do it,’” she said.

Throughout her year-long recovery, she said many of her colleagues frequently visited, even helping Brewer’s husband with paperwork that had to be taken care of due to the accident.

When Brewer was put on permanent disability, she wasn’t ready for her career to end.

After talking to her doctor, she took the opportunity to try working again.

“And, I’m still here,” Brewer said from her office at Clinic Administration at Cox Medical Center Branson. “What better place to work than the place that helped you at your lowest.”

Proud to work at CoxHealth: Jeanna Barker

Earlier this year, we asked staff members to tell us why they were proud to be part of CoxHealth and the response was overwhelming. We’re featuring a few of the best stories in CoxHealth Connection and here on the blog.

Jeanna Barker, Oxford HealthCare

When Jeanna Barker was 17, her father was killed by a drunk driver. At the time, she was ready to begin business college to become an accountant. Then, she met the crew of EMS professionals who worked the scene of her dad’s accident. She initially went to thank them, but they became fast friends.

“I was in awe of everything they go through,” she says. “I wanted to be able to help people. Putting on that uniform and going out to do the best you can for the person you’re picking up – that means something.”

She decided to become an EMT and by the time she was 22 in the early 1990s, she took a position working on the mobile neo-natal intensive care unit, known as the Baby Buggy. She spent the next eight years dividing her time between the Baby Buggy and other Pre-Hospital roles.

“It was amazing – you saw people save 1.5-pound babies that seemed like they weren’t going to make it,” she says. “We were doing everything we could for someone who couldn’t tell us what was wrong or help themselves in any way. That’s rewarding.”

After spending years in the field in Pre-Hospital, she took on a new challenge in clerical support with Oxford’s in-home services. For the last 16 years, she’s been using the business skills she began honing as a teenager to support Oxford’s clients.

“My dad knew what he was talking about when he sent me to business school, he just didn’t realize he needed to send me for health care as well,” she says with a laugh.

Now, her role encompasses the best of both worlds and she takes pride in being part of Oxford’s commitment to serving its clients.

“We work as a team to make sure everyone is taken care of and that’s what I really like about this job.”

This year, she’s celebrating 24 years with CoxHealth and she says there’s no place she’d rather be.

“I hope to retire here – I’ve been here more than half my life and this is home. This is where I’ve made it my business to be successful and I want the business to succeed as well,” she says.

“CoxHealth is a very people-friendly atmosphere and we’re a very people-invested company – in both our patients and our employees. It’s been a blessing to work for CoxHealth and I have been blessed to work with some of the most wonderful people. I don’t think you could work for a better company.”

CoxHealth employee drive benefits local shelters

In April we held a collection drive for Harmony House in Springfield, the Crisis Center in Taney County and Lafayette House in Joplin.

These agencies operate emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence in the communities we serve. The shelters have ongoing needs for personal care items as well as cleaning supplies, household goods and more.

CoxHealth employees were asked to contribute to the drive. Many areas had department collections and the 1906 Employee Store helped make giving easy once again.

At the end of the drive, several dozens of boxes were filled with supplies and distributed to the agencies that were grateful for the donations.

“Thank you so much! Words can’t express how much this huge donation means to so many survivors of domestic violence! Your help is greatly appreciated,” said Esther Munch of Harmony House.

Thank you for helping make the April collection drive a success!

Pictured are Becky Vermeire, the executive director of Crisis Center of Taney County and Stefanie Parker, court advocate, with one of four boxes of donations from Cox Branson.


Celebrating our Healthgrades recognition

Staff members at Cox South gathered Monday afternoon to celebrate our latest recognition: the Healthgrades 2015 Distinguished Hospital Clinical Excellence Award.

The award recognizes Cox South for outstanding clinical performance in the top 5 percent in the nation, based on outcomes, complication rates and mortality rates.

Hospital and system leaders, including CEO Steve Edwards, Chief Hospital Officer Ron Prenger, System Chief Nursing Officer Karen Kramer and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frank Romero spoke to the crowed and offered their congratulations for a job well done.