Michael Sumner, an emergency room (ER) nurse at Sentara RMH in Harrisonburg, Va., earned an award for compassionate care in May, and days later, a second award for a research project. He is a 2015 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s nursing program.
The timing was coincidental, but both the awards are “a small glimpse into his professionalism, character and love of nursing,” says Marcus Almarode, director of emergency services and a 2003 EMU graduate. “Michael is a wonderful addition to our team. He has a heart for all of our patients and strives to provide the safest and highest quality care for each of them individually. He also cares for his teammates, and despite being a new nurse, he is always willing to jump in and help.”
Sumner’s first recognition came in May with the DAISY Award, which honors extraordinary nurses through a national program called The Daisy Foundation. Founded in 1999 by the family of a patient who spent eight weeks in the hospital, the program honors selfless service and compassionate care of nursing professionals. More than 2,500 healthcare facilities in all 50 states and 15 other countries partner with the foundation to provide this recognition.
Nurses at Sentara RMH are nominated by a co-worker, a family member of a patient, or a patient. At the end of a month, a committee makes a blind selection.
Sumner’s patient happened to be in the ER on his 58th wedding anniversary. After several hours, both he and his wife became hungry. Sumner checked to make sure that his patient could eat and then spontaneously turned into a maître ‘d, creating a special bedside table and bringing “two of our famous lunchbox meals,” he said. “If you’ve spent any time in the emergency room here, you know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t, that’s a turkey sandwich, peaches, pretzels and a choice of drink.”
Nursing is Sumner’s second career. Although he worked in emergency services as a 911 dispatcher and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), he always wanted to be a nurse.
“It was always a dream of mine. My mom is a nurse and my wife is a nurse. She really supported me,” Sumner said.
Debra Yesalavich ’92 Sumner encouraged her husband through 2.5 years of Blue Ridge Community College. By the time he transferred to EMU, “I was one of the oldest kids there,” he joked, “but I loved it. The professors were great, both the nursing professors and the ones I had in other departments.”
After graduation, Sumner was hired by Sentara RMH. Newly graduated nurses participate in a 12-month nursing residency program that offers support, mentoring and professional development. One requirement is the completion of an evidence-based research project.
Sumner formed a team with fellow December 2015 EMU graduates Vanessa Yoder and Kelly Perry, and Anna Burrows, a graduate of James Madison University.
The group investigated protocols and management of stroke victims receiving Alteplase during ground transport by emergency medical services. After successfully presenting the poster in February at the conclusion of the residency program, they were encouraged to compete in Sentara’s annual Nurse Leadership Academy. There, out of about 30 other posters, they earned a first-place ranking.
Sumner says he was well-prepared by EMU’s nursing program for the challenges of his profession, and also the demanding setting of the emergency room.
“As emergency room nurses, we come in contact with patients and their families at their most vulnerable time. I approach each patient and family with a smile, kindness and understanding. Even during the busiest times, they deserve our best service and to listen to their story. I attribute this approach to EMU’s nursing program and the Sacred Covenant Model of Nursing which focused on holistic care.”
On demanding days, he’s inspired by the teamwork of his colleagues in the ER, “a simple thank you, a smile or a handshake from a patient or family member for the care that we provided,” and his supportive and compassionate wife.