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2021 Excellence in Human Understanding Award winner shows compassion daily

NRC Health, the leading provider of in-depth customer insights in healthcare, today named Stephanie Schwarzenbach, Manager of ICU at Loma Linda University Medical Center–Murietta, the winner of its second-annual Excellence in Human Understanding Award.

As a community member, nurse, and hospital leader, Schwarzenbach demonstrated extraordinary empathy, compassion, and Human Understanding as she spent quality time with a John Doe who had arrived in her ER, unable to identify himself due to the trauma of a cycling accident. Once the patient became well enough to awaken, she sat with him at his bedside, learning more about him and sharing how he had come to the hospital. Once he knew his story of survival, he was overwhelmed with the desire to thank those who had saved his life.

That’s where Schwarzenbach went into action, pulling together multiple entities within her community to grant his wish. Including everyone from first responders to workers at the 911 system, police and fire departments, emergency room, cath lab, and intensive care units, she coordinated an event for the patient to let him show gratitude to all who had played a role in his recovery.

“She has shown us all what we should be striving for as healthcare professionals, but also as human beings,” says Rene Tovar, Assistant Vice President of Clinical Operations. Tovar nominated Schwarzenbach, along with Director of Emergency Services Kristin Butler, for the award. “She treated [the patient] the way she would have wanted her own family to be treated if they were in the same situation. She has inspired not only me but all of her employees, as well as other leaders.”

Overwhelmed by Acknowledgement

“Being nominated for the Excellence in Human Understanding Award, to me, is very humbling,” Schwarzenbach says. “In this specific instance, I feel so grateful to be a part of a team that really embraces Human Understanding and how we can come together and create something so magical, not just for the patient but for everybody involved. It really brought us together as a team to say, Here we are, together, what do we do? And just to support [each other] and to know that when we come together, we can make magical things happen.

“To win this award means a great deal to me,” she adds. “And I really can’t believe it; I feel overwhelmed. I just feel very grateful to be representing Loma Linda and grateful to be part of a system and a team that supports my crazy and wild ideas.”

Schwarzenbach would like to thank NRC Health and her industry peers for this honor, as well as the incredible team at Loma Linda for the nomination. “I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside this group of talented individuals, and look forward to continuing the work we do every day to make an impact on our patients,” she says.

When it comes to Human Understanding, Schwarzenbach’s advice is just to treat everybody in the moment—never let an opportunity go to make an impact on someone’s life positively, and know that every moment is an opportunity to do something good.

Human Understanding in Action

“At Loma Linda, our values are fundamental to us,” Schwarzenbach says. “One of our missions is to Make Man Whole, and that’s something that has always spoken to me. I chose Loma Linda for that. Specifically, we try to focus on the person as a whole and all that encompasses—the family, the patient, everybody. Even to our team, Making Man Whole encompasses all sorts of people and shows our values in wholeness, integrity, compassion, excellence, teamwork. What I especially appreciate about Loma Linda is that last year, they added humility and justice to our values.”

Schwarzenbach says understanding a patient’s individual needs is very important, because a care team needs to meet them where they are to see progress. She says they have patients at Loma Linda that sometimes won’t make it to that next level of care, which requires a transition of focus to families and their needs—supporting them spiritually, with humility and understanding, during one of the most challenging times of their lives.

“We take the time to focus on and talk about that,” she says. “That’s very important to us as doctors, nurses, and anybody in the care team, to step up and see the patients and families and meet their needs. Never miss an opportunity to impact someone’s life positively. We all have an impact on each other in so many ways.”