Spirit of Excellence Award: 2023 Patient Support Professional of the Year

Each year, Spirit of Excellence Awards are presented by our parent company, Amedisys, to select employees who demonstrate exceptional caregiving support to the field and display Amedisys’ core values, which include service, passion, integrity, respect, innovation and talent. 

Our 2023 Patient Support Professional of the Year Award was presented to Cheryl Russell, a Patient Care Navigator (PCN) working with our Virtual Care Unit. Here are some of the wonderful things Cheryl’s colleagues said about her in their nominations in support of her: 

“At the center of every patient and family interaction, Cheryl demonstrates respect, passion and service. There is no doubt that she will do whatever it takes to help her patients with the resources they require to not only meet their needs each day but hopefully exceed them. Being a PCN is no easy task, but Cheryl makes it look easy with the way she talks with families and links them to local supportive resources.” 

“Cheryl embodies passion and respect. She is very passionate about the care she is giving to these patients, and it is evident by her diligence to find resources and her in-depth case reviews. Our patients are very appreciative of that, and so are our Recovery Care Coordinators and Acute Care Registered Nurses.” 

We are proud to spotlight Cheryl’s achievements in this role, and we asked her to share a little more about herself and her day-to-day work as a PCN. 

What is a Patient Care Navigator, and why did you choose this job? 

Patient Care Navigators serve as a community resource liaison within Contessa’s markets, connecting patients and families with resources available to them through their insurance and local communities, so their needs can be safely met in their homes.  

This can look different for each patient and their family — it can be anything from understanding what Durable Power of Healthcare forms are needed for making healthcare decisions, to struggling with caregiver burden. Even if the patient and family aren’t ready to take the next step, we work with them to help them understand what options are available to them. 

PCNs have experience working as social workers or care managers, and we understand that sometimes patients and families just need to be heard and have support and resources to assist them in making difficult decisions now or in the future. My background is in mental health case management; I’m licensed in the state of Ohio as a social worker and spent 11 years working with individuals who were being released from a state hospital to the community. Born and raised in Ohio, I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies from Kent State University and a master’s degree in social science administration from Case Western University. 

Even though I first wanted to become an attorney, I always knew I wanted to help people, and this opportunity at Contessa was a chance to be a link to those who need support and understanding of what is available to them in their communities. As a PCN, I provide assistance to help them remain safely in their own homes.  

How is the role of a Patient Care Navigator unique? 

Although my previous work experience brought me into the communities and homes of my patients and families, this role has been a great experience because I am learning about so many different markets and local resources. Each day, I might be working in New York or Pennsylvania in the morning and by the end of the day I could be talking to another patient and family in Washington or Texas. This position definitely keeps me on my toes!  

It has been a pleasure to work with all the staff, from those on the ground to our Virtual Care Unit team members. As a team, we are helping patients and their families receive quality care in their home and supporting them in remaining in their homes.  

It was an adjustment switching from in-person to virtual interactions with my patients and their families, but our technology allows for face-to-face interaction through video rounding calls ensuring patients know that there is a real person on the other end of the call that does understand and wants to help them be successful or obtain the support that they need. 

When you’re not working as a Patient Care Navigator, what are your favorite things to do? 

I love to scrapbook and do crafts — I actually own a small craft business doing t-shirts and other items. I also enjoy spending time with my son Drew and daughter Brit and love my “nana time” with my two grandsons, Carter and Daniel. 

Thanks, Cheryl, for sharing your talents and passion for caregiving with your patients, their families and the Contessa team! We are grateful for the care and attention you and other Patient Care Navigators like you contribute to advancing healthcare at home.