A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Elaine Johnson-Merkel

A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Elaine Johnson-Merkel

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Elaine Johnson-Merkel is a Valpo Life in the Spotlight because she leads by example, is dedicated to her team and patients and she is focused on providing the best in patient-centered care from the tiniest of patients in the NICU to the women and mothers that come to Porter Regional Hospital for care.

Johnson-Merkel, Director of the Women & Children's Pavilion was recently named Porter's Clinical Manager-of-the-Year.

As Director of the Women & Children's Pavilion, Johnson-Merkel oversees all services provided throughout the pavilion which encompasses the entire fourth floor of Porter Regional Hospital. Dedicated areas in the pavilion include labor, delivery (L&D), recovery and post-partum (OB); a newborn nursery; the pediatric unit; a Level II+ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); plus additional private rooms for pediatric patients and women of all ages.

When receiving this honor, Johnson-Merkel shared her thoughts on working with a strong, dedicated team, "I've learned after 28 years of experience, a leader is only as successful as those on her team. I share this recognition with everyone – staff and physicians alike – who give their all for our patients each day."

Johnson-Merkel came from humble beginnings. Her father passed away when she was only two years old. She came to rely on her mother for everything. After her father passed away, it meant for her family that they didn't have much when she was a child growing up but that only strengthened Johnson-Merkel's character. She started out as an aid in a nursing home then later went to nursing school.

"I was at the patient's bedside for 18 years," she added. "Starting out as an aid and then later going to nursing school I came to appreciate the value in everyone's job from the aid, to the nurse, to the physician."

After working at the bedside of patients for 18 years, it was only logical to advance further in the need for patient-centered care by getting her Bachelors Degree and advancing into the administrative role.

Johnson-Merkel said, "I wanted to challenge myself so I went back to school and got my Bachelors Degree. This led to my position today. My Director, then Carol Walker, was promoted and she recommended me for this position and here I am. I am a people person and I learned right away I wanted people to succeed, but at the end of the day if there are problems I want people to take ownership for them. Carol told me 'If you put the patient first, you will never go wrong, and I believe that."

Johnson-Merkel has an open door policy for her staff. This open door policy allows her associates to approach her with any problems they want to discuss. She is ready to listen objectively and approaches any problem that may come up with a positive attitude.

Johnson-Merkel said, "Char (Charlene Pluta RNC Educator) always tells me 'Elaine you always see the glass half-full.' I think I do do that, look at the glass as half-full. I believe I try to look at things from a positive perspective because if you give good you get good and if you give kindness you get kindness in return. When you approach things with a positive perspective or a glass half-full approach, you are bound to have a good outcome."

Stephanie Didion, Clinical Manager Maternal Child reiterated Johnson-Merkel's positive approach by saying, "One of Elaine's best leadership qualities is her passion for quality care. She always says 'Do the right things for the right reasons.' She puts our patients at the center of all we do."

As Director of the Women and Children's Pavilion, Johnson-Merkel has a good understanding of each unit and how they affect each other whether it is the laboring mom, or a mom that has delivered an infant requiring a stay in the NICU. By overseeing all departments, she can be the mediator having a good working knowledge of each unit.

Johnson-Merkel said, "With one 'Mama Hen', it is cohesive. Things used to be divided up into two units; Pediatrics and NICU and then Labor & Delivery and OB and with two directors it was difficult to mediate, but with one at the helm, it protects our patients through the entire process."

Elaine Johnson-Merkel doesn't just oversee; she is hands on, earning the respect of her colleagues.

Diane Rowe Day Shift Charge Nurse said, "I admire Elaine. She leads by example. One example would be when we were really busy and had a lot of patients. She took over assigning rooms and organizing the departments for the volume of patients. She is also fair and funny and I think having a sense of humor can be a good quality when you are a leader."

Elaine Johnson-Merkel is positive, a team player, and a leader. She sets the example for those under her leadership by being hands-on. Her dedication to her team and patients demonstrates why she was named Porter's Clinical Manager-of-the-Year and that is why she is this weeks Valpo Life in the Spotlight.

Pictured with: Donna Sullivan NICU RN Day-Charge NICU

Group: Diane Rowe RN Day-Charge Nursery, Donna Mull RN NICU, Elaine Johnson-Merkel (self), Stephanie Didion Clinical Manager Maternal Child, Donna Sullivan RN Day-Charge NICU, Marianne Struble Unit Secretary

Nursery: Elaine Johnson-Merkel (self) and Charlene Pluta RNC Educator