Heralded as “healthcare heroes,” nurses have gone above and beyond to fight COVID-19, many flying to assist the hardest-hit parts of U.S.
Locally, hospitals are recognizing their nurses’ achievements during this National Nurses Month, including Phoenix Children’s Hospital, which recently announced the recipients of their 16th annual Nursing Excellence Awards – including Northern Scottsdale resident Gretchen Schwindt, named this year’s Transformational Leader.
“It’s very exciting, for sure,” Schwindt said.
The Transformational Leader Award recognizes nurses who “embody a leadership style that fosters an environment where nurses feel their voices are heard, their input is valued, and their practice is supported.”
Children’s Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Julie Bowman said Schwindt received numerous nominations for the award.
“It’s so exciting that she was nominated and selected by staff and she is very deserving of this award,” Bowman said. “As a tenured nurse but new clinical manager, Gretchen has natural leadership abilities with a spirited approach to leading improvement work in her clinical area of responsibility.”
Schwindt may be relatively new to the role of clinical manager – taking the position in August – but she’s been at Children’s nearly 17 years.
After 14 years in the neonatal intensive care unit, she transitioned to nurse coordinator, working for a fetal care program.
“My plan was always to be in leadership,” Schwindt said.
So, when her colleague Jennifer Mutascio asked if she’d like to take on her position as clinical manager, it was an easy “yes.”
“It definitely helped that she sought me out and that she knew what her team wanted and needed. I think that’s what made the easy transition for me to come in,” Schwindt said.
“Well deserved,” “one of my favorite nurses,” and “a true leader and wonderful person” are just a few ways Schwindt’s team describes her.
“It was really exciting for sure to be nominated, and to be nominated by my own staff was amazing. I was completely overwhelmed and surprised,” Schwindt said.
Schwindt calls the award a “group award.”
“I have only been able to do what I’m doing because I lean on them so much to learn so much of the management role that I didn’t have experience in,” Schwindt said.
Schwindt was admittedly nervous to fill Mutascio’s shoes because of her extensive management experience and because Mutascio’s team respected her so much.
So, when Schwindt took on the role, she concentrated on building relationships with her team members first.
Within a few months, she has helped improve the team’s communication, transparency and overall wellness.
“They wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to meet with senior leadership, that visibility. So, we started a quarterly breakfast with a VP,” Schwindt said. “It’s an open forum … and they can ask any questions they want to ask or tell them any concerns they have.”
Schwindt also helped create a second wellness center in the East Building at Phoenix Children’s Hospital main campus, where she works with new graduates and experienced nurses.
Schwindt helped convert a room on the third floor of the building into their own wellness room complete with a shoulder massage, a sound machine, yoga mats, healthy snacks, and more.
“Sometimes, it’s really hard at work and you don’t have the opportunity to get away and you bring some of that negativity home and it affects your personal life,” Schwindt said, calling the wellness room “a place to go away for a few moments, to re-center themselves, get ready for the rest of their shift and keep them mentally healthy, too.”
“I would not want to work anywhere else. I absolutely love working at PCH,” Schwindt said. “Our senior leadership is so supportive and amazing.
“Right now, with everything that was happening with COVID and our census being down, a lot of hospitals were furloughing, and our leadership team wants our nurses, they want to keep them here. So, they just had a program where they’re supporting our nurses and they’re able to get their full paycheck,” she continued.
Phoenix Children’s Pay Protection Program ensured that all full-time and part-time employees receive pay for 100 percent of their budgeted hours in April and recently extended through June 6.
“That support from senior leadership down, it’s why you want to work here. You want to work here because of the children, and you have a great support system and leadership,” Schwindt said.