July 2019

Helping Patients Through Music

Mindful Meditation for SCH Employees


Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let the stress melt away. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Throughout the year, SCH’s Mindful Meditation Initiative (MMI) offers monthly meditation courses to teach participants how to practice meditation as well as how it can be integrated into their daily lives.  Each 30-minute class includes guided meditation instruction, support and resources for practicing medication outside of class. Studies show that meditation can not only decrease stress, anxiety and depression but can reduce inflammation, pain and the effects of trauma to the body.  In addition, meditation can have a dramatic impact on a person’s job performance, by improving problem solving abilities, creativity, short-term memory, and tolerance.

The initiative was created in 2018 at the request of the SCH’s Physicians Advisory Board who were looking for innovative methods to prevent and treat staff burn-out and increase patient satisfaction.  An 8-week pilot course was developed in response. The pilot MMI included a weekly schedule of 30-minute meditation classes scheduled throughout the day. Four different types of meditation were taught, and participants were encouraged to attend at least 2 classes per week while continuing the practice on their own.

Staff feedback from the MMI pilot was overwhelmingly positive. Staff members reported benefits such as increased patience, sense of calm, resilience and focus, reduced anxiety and blood pressure and an increased ability to find calm in moments of stress.  As some of the participants explain:

After six weeks of classes, mediation has allowed me to slow down, especially when things start spiraling out of control. It has also enabled me to fall asleep faster. L. B., Access Services

A meditation break allows me a renewed focus on my work; it helps me focus on my thoughts and allows me to feel positive throughout the day. Meditation has helped me with my blood pressure. It used to fluctuate throughout the day, but it is now back to normal. A. A., MSO Coding

These sessions helped me immensely with just relaxing and emptying my mind. I have become more adept at meditating now thanks to the program.
-G. S., Legal Affairs

After participating in the meditation class I have seen measurable changes in my blood pressure, sleep quality and overall level of calm. I have signed up for additional classes because the first was so helpful. -Y. S., Wound Care

Working in a hospital can be a chaotic environment. The class allows me to focus my thoughts on the present and be in the moment. In order to deliver the best outcomes for my patients, I must be attentive and responsive to their needs, and not allow my focus to stray to other issues that I may be juggling in the course of my work day. These medication classes allow me to stay focused and perform at a higher level for my patients.
-E. O., Occupational Therapy

Meditation makes me more aware of my breathing and provide me with a sense of calm. In a hospital setting we are often engaged with patients at a difficult moment in their life. If we enter in a state of calm, we are more likely to be the kind of presence that a patients needs in the moment and less likely to absorb the patient’s distress in unhealthy ways.
-K. L., Women’s Health Center

Due to the success of the 8-week pilot course and the growing interest among other hospital staff members (including the Trauma Informed Work Group and nursing leadership), SCH’s Foundation Board provided funding to expand the MMI to a year-round program, free and accessible, to all employees.  This expanded program will not only benefit the participating SCH staff member but the patients with whom they interact.  As Kayla Kulans, Wellness Program Manager explains, “The aim of SCH’s Mindful Meditation Initiative is to not only bring this highly beneficial practice to individual employees but to create a staff community that is more focused, resilient, patient and mindful.”  To learn more about the Foundation’s other donor-funded programs or how you can donate and make a difference, please contact us at: foundation@swedishcovenant.org or (773) 293-5121 

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Bequest Gift from Alyce Chrystall Supports Nurses


Alyce loved to help. Whether it was assisting on her Father’s cattle ranch or caring for her seven brothers and sisters, Alyce felt she was put on this Earth to serve others. It’s only natural then, that after her passing, Alyce is still making a difference in the lives of others. Thanks to the generosity of Alyce five SCH nurses working toward their advanced degrees have been awarded an Alyce B. Chrystall Scholarship to help defray their education costs.

As a little girl growing up on a large cattle ranch in Nebraska, Alyce was known as the caring one of the family; she would often tend to sick animals or help her parents care for her seven siblings. According to Karin, it was Alyce’s nurturing nature that prompted her older brother to pay for her to attend nursing school in Minnesota when she was only 18 years old.  Alone and determined, Alyce graduated from the Swedish Hospital School of Nursing with the dream of serving others and helping those in need.

Nursing was Alyce’s calling, which inspired her career and volunteer choices throughout her life.  Over her 40-year career, she practiced clinical and surgical nursing, worked as I.V. Therapist, an Industrial Nurse, and Personal Secretary, opened an Employee Health Clinic and worked for the Visiting Nurses Association. She retired from the nursing field at age 65, but stayed active by volunteering her time and energy to faith-based, service and social organizations well into her 80’s.

It was Alyce’s mission to serve and care for people.  Karin recounts that Alyce, “…was led by her faith and walked in in great humility and unconditional love for everyone she met. She found the good in all things.” As an act of her lasting generosity and compassion, Karin continued Alyce’s legacy of excellence in nursing and service by establishing the Alyce B. Chrystall Scholarship at Swedish Covenant Health. Karin was impressed with SCH’s active Nurse Alumnae Association and their strong commitment to nursing education scholarships, our continued support of staff professional development, and our affiliation with North Park University’s School of Nursing.  As Karin explains, “Nursing was the heart of Alyce; it defined her. Creating scholarships to help others become nurses was what Alyce would have wanted. I knew SCH  was the place.”

The 5 winners of the Alyce B. Chrystall Scholarship are: Colleen Jennings, OB Charge Nurse, Sommar Johnson, RN, BSN, CCRN , Dane Ligas, BSN, Bianca Pirvu, BSN and Gerelmaa Budmandakh, MSN

To the recipients of Alyce’s generosity, the scholarships are life-changing. According to Sommar Johnson, “This has changed my life and decreased my financial stress. Now I can focus more on school and work. I hope to one day give back and provide someone with the same opportunity I was given.” Colleen Jennings agrees. Feeling humbled and honored to be a recipient, she notes that “this scholarship will allow me to finish my BSN.  It has been a long process due to financial reasons and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity.  I hope to make Alyce Chrystall proud.” Karin awarded the scholarships during a ceremony in May, at which time she commented that it was Alyce’s wish to make a lasting impact on the nursing profession.  Her generous act of assisting five nurses obtain advanced degrees and certifications will better the healthcare of thousands of future patients. For more information on ways to support the scholarship program at SCH, please contact the Foundation at: foundation@SwedishCovenant.org or (773) 293-5121 

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Employee Giving: Eva Peroulas


For Eva Peroulas, assisting others is second nature. Working in labor and delivery for over 20 years at SCH, Eva has helped hundreds of new mothers and their families through good times and challenging situations. Eva has also been an enthusiastic supporter of Employee Giving for over 10 years. When asked why she gives, her generous spirit shines through, “It makes me happy to know that I can help others both in my professional and personal life. I admire and respect what the Foundation does for our patients and our community through the hospital’s programming.”

Eva sees first-hand, the impact of her donations on patients throughout the hospital. Last year, for example, her donation supported the Newborn Safe Sleep Initiative in the Family Birthing Center. As Eva explains, “I have witnessed the tears of a new mother who lost a daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Because of the Foundation, we are now able to keep babies safe by providing safe sleep sacks to their mothers. Something so simple that can prevent tragedy yet something that not every new mother can afford to buy.”

With a similar desire to help her patients, Eva has also supported victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking through SCH’s Violence Prevention Program.  Knowing that domestic violence has become an enormous public health concern, and that 4-8% of all pregnant women are suffering domestic abuse during their pregnancy, Eva felt compelled to support the work of our staff to assist these survivors of abuse. This year, Eva’s donation is helping SCH enhance the Healing Garden with a proposed area for quiet reflection and mourning for new parents.

Eva demonstrates such a passionate commitment to her patients and the hospital’s mission, that she is a current member of the President’s Society for years. The President’s Society is comprised of donors whose annual support of $1,000 or more help us provide the safest, highest quality of care for our diverse community. Membership in the President’s Society offers special benefits including access to the latest hospital news, invitations to special events (such as the President Society Dinner on Sept 4, 2019) and the knowledge that you are providing hope and healing for all our patients regardless of their ability to pay.

There are a variety of ways in which to donate; from direct donations of cash or credit cards, to payroll deductions, and PTO hours.  For Eva, helping others is empowering; as she explains, “Having the power to improve the lives of others reinforces my own personal values and fulfills my moral duties and ethical beliefs.”  To learn more about making a donation or becoming a Present Society Member please contact foundation@swedishcovenant.org or (773) 293-5121

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SCHNAA Reunion Attracts Record Turnout


In celebration of all our nurse alumnae, with a special honor to the 50th anniversary of the school’s last graduating class (1969), a lovely luncheon was held at nearby St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and hosted by the SCH Foundation.  The Winona building, which is located adjacent to the church parking lot, was originally the nursing dormitory building.  Many of the nurse alumnae were delighted to finally enter the church after 50+ years, as most of them looked out at it daily from their dorm windows to view weddings and celebrations.

This final reunion was organized by the SCHNAA Board: Joan Bickner (’65), Sharon Eager (’63), Carol Olson (’61) and Susan Tanner (’68). Together, these women created an afternoon of friendship, fellowship, memories and entertainment. As Susan Tanner (’68) explains, “The Annual Luncheon has been an important event for our nurse alumnae. It marks a special time when we were young students; learning together, living together and sharing thousands of unique experiences and memories that could have only happened at Swedish Covenant Hospital.” Over 110 nurses and their spouses attended, creating one of those most well-attended reunions in recent memory and a wonderful send-off to the all-class annual gatherings.

During Nurse’s Week this past May, three nursing students were selected to receive the SCH Nurse Alumnae Association Scholarship Award. This year, SCHNAA Scholarships were presented to Kimberly Rosales, Olivia Mott and Aisha Abdallah.  In addition, the Virginia Ohlon Scholarship was awarded to Christina Venegas, a SCH nurse since 2012 and an MSN student. The scholarship was created by her fellow alumnae to honor her legacy of learning, teaching and caring.

To celebrate their 50th, the SCH nursing class of 1969, made a gift to Swedish Covenant, symbolizing their gratitude for the wonderful education they received and memories they shared.  They chose to support the hospital’s NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders) carts initiative. These carts provide purposeful activities for elderly patients with cognitive impairments such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or delirium. The NICHE carts will greatly expand the choice of activities the nursing staff is able to offer patients, making it easier for them to care for this population.

We are grateful for the generosity of the nursing class of 1969 and our entire SCH Nursing Alumnae Association. Their dedication and commitment to the field nursing and service to others has been an inspiration, and their generosity through class gifts, scholarships and legacy gifts has changed lives of future nurses and patients for years to come. To view photos from the 2019 Reunion, please click here.

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