Those of us in home healthcare in Illinois already know Sandy Scannell. She first worked as a med-surg nurse and then a pediatric nurse. Later she joined the University of Illinois’ Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) as a case manager. For a dozen years, we at Independence Plus, Inc. (IPI) knew her as the nurse who meticulously audited our patient records—and she was particularly exacting! Eventually in 2012, she retired from the State, took the summer off, and then “jumped the fence” and joined IPI’s staff as Director of Quality Improvement. It was great to finally have her sit on “our” side of the table! We sat down with Sandy earlier this week to find out a little more about her career before IPI, as well as what she plans to do next.
Q: Why did you become a nurse?
I had rheumatic fever when I was five. I was hospitalized at La Rabida Children’s Hospital for three months. While I was there I was part of a federally-funded research project for rheumatic fever and that experience made me want to be a nurse. I also read a book about Florence Nightingale as a child, so that was another factor that led me in this direction.
Q: Why did you choose to work in Home Nursing?
I worked at the University of Illinois’ Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) for about 30 years. DSCC provides free care coordination for families of children with special health care needs in Illinois. While I was there I worked on the ‘waiver program,’ which was administrated by Medicaid. It allowed medically fragile, technology-dependent children to be cared for at home instead of the hospital. They were able to be with their families and go to school; and their parents could still work and not have to be at a hospital all the time. And everyone did better. At first I was a case manager and then I worked in the home care support unit, writing procedural manuals, training staff and doing audits for the program. I was a supervisor of the program from 1999 until I retired in 2012. The waiver program began auditing nursing agencies in 2000/2001, which included auditing Independence Plus. You learn a lot about a company from auditing them, and I knew this would be a good company to work for post-retirement. I had to keep working; I have three kids with student loans and a pool I am renovating!
Q: What has been your proudest moment so far as a nurse?
I think I’ve done good things and things I’m proud of, but I don’t think there is just one thing that stands out. I have learned a great deal and I have a lot of empathy. There are children you work with that you will never forget. There was one child – a patient – who a doctor had told all of the residents to not do anything without talking to me, because I knew this child backwards and forwards. That makes you feel good. There was another child when I worked at U of I who I helped discharge home. We were able to get him home after two years in the hospital. He was hospitalized because he had a trach. I took him and his mom home, set all of the equipment up for her, and made sure she was able to do all of the necessary care. That was a great experience and he did really well at home. This was before the waiver was implemented in Illinois.
Q: What is something about your job that would surprise us?
That I actually sometimes feel bad about putting a post-it on a piece of paper to tell someone they did something wrong! As the Director of Quality Improvement, I review the work processes and policies for all three service lines at IPI … how they interact, how they can work better, and how we can possibly improve. So I am always the one with the red marker or post-it, asking for correction. We did phenomenal on our last CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Program) review and we all know how important it is to keep that up. There are always improvements to be made.
Q: What are you planning to do next?
I have always wanted to respond to disasters with the Red Cross or some organization like that. My brother goes to Africa every year as a volunteer in Ethiopia and I would like to do that one year as well. That will happen once I retire from IPI.
Q: What words do you live by?
The Serenity Prayer. My brother’s girlfriend gave it to me once when I was working at a hospital and was caring for a child who was having a really hard time with surgeries. It was very sad, and she needle-pointed the words of the prayer and framed it for me. That was 35 years ago and I still have it hanging up at home.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: It’s not one person who inspires me; it’s people in general who do things to help others who are at a disadvantage. I’ve worked with people who gave a lot of time to causes like the Special Olympics. I’ve had great bosses like those at DSCC who had ethics and standards and common sense. It’s a whole group of people I have met who have done whatever they could do to help others.