Connecting with patients

Cathy Church with Matheny president Steve Proctor, left, and Gary E. Eddey, MD, vice president and chief medical officer.

Cathy Church’s arrival at Matheny 22 years ago was spontaneous—“really by accident,” she said. However, the fact that she stayed for more than two decades before deciding to retire this September was no accident. “Once I actually got to Matheny,” she recalled, “I found it was such a comfortable environment. It’s an uplifting place. The connection you have with the patients here—you feel it every day, no matter what discipline you’re working in. Everybody gets that connection.”

In 1993, Church and her husband were living in Staten Island, NY., where she was working full-time in a long-term care facility. However, they had a summer residence in Cranberry Lake in Byram Township, NJ.  “I had seen an article about Matheny in the newspaper, and Peapack was exactly halfway between my two homes, so I just visited one day. I was hired as a primary nurse and decided to make the switch.”

Seven months later, Church was asked to take over the management of the personal care assistant (PCA) staff. Matheny’s patients need assistance in many areas such as eating, transferring, bathing, dressing, oral hygiene and toileting. PCAs play a unique role in providing the most basic care for the patients. “I loved working with the direct care staff,” Church said. “They’re the unsung heroes. They make everything else happen for the patients; they are involved in every aspect of the patients’ care.”

Once Church realized she was going to stay at Matheny, she and her husband moved to nearby Basking Ridge and then settled permanently in Cranberry Lake in 2002. She became chief nursing officer in 2006 and, under her leadership, the PCA department became a more integral part of the nursing department. “When I came in,” she recalled, “the PCA department operated as its own entity. It had its own organizational structure, its own supervisors. It wasn’t as connected with nursing as it should have been. We had to make changes to make it more unit-based. The nursing supervisors now manage the PCA schedules and all the logistics.”

Nursing at Matheny is different from acute care hospitals, Church said, “because you’re handling everything about patients’ wellness from beginning to end. They’re not coming in for an acute problem, getting that fixed and being discharged. You’re dealing with all of the associated conditions they have, to keep them well. You’re not going to cure them, but you want to keep them well so that they can be involved in everything Matheny has to offer to the extent it’s possible. You’re really looking at them in a very holistic way.”