View Older News »


Kent School to Return to Campus

As an independent school, Kent School’s decision to open is made with advice of the Governor, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, the Kent County Health Department, and CDC guidelines. Last week the Governor and Maryland School Superintendent Karen Salmon held a press conference. She said, “Now, with the state firmly in recovery, schools will have the flexibility to determine, in consultation with their local health officers, how they will open. Continuing in Stage 2 of Recovery, schools can choose to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall.”

The CDC also issued new guidelines for schools last week encouraging schools to open in the fall. The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall Kent School’s small class sizes and its large classrooms, as well as all of the mitigation measures put in place, make it possible for faculty and students to safely return to campus. The positivity rate in Kent County for the past week at 0.44%, is significantly lower than other counties on the Eastern Shore. At all times during the academic year, however, the School must follow the mandates of the Governor and the Kent County Health Department. The Kent County Health Department has reviewed the School’s Return to Campus Plan and agrees with its measures.

The layers of mitigation utilized for a safe return to campus will include face coverings for parts of the day, distanced desks, frequent hand-washing and sanitizer stations. The School has refitted all bathrooms with touchless faucets, soap and paper towel dispensers. Filters in air handlers have been upgraded and ventilation is being supported with open windows and fans. We are deeply grateful to Kent County Economic Development for the recent COVID-19 Modification Grant for supporting these improvements.

The School is renting tents for the back field so that all classes will have the opportunity to teach and learn outdoors. The Kent School campus is rich with beautiful outdoor teaching spaces and we plan to take full advantage of our unparalleled environment for learning this academic year.

There is an emerging body of research that indicates that children are less susceptible to infection compared to adults. International schools that are open have not reported any cases of COVID-19 transmission from students to staff and from students to other students with appropriate risk mitigation strategies in place. That said, Kent School will have an option for distance learning for families who are not comfortable with their children returning to campus.

Nancy Mugele, Head of School said, “We believe that being together as safely as possible is the best option for the well being of our students, and nothing can replace the robust interactions that happen daily in the classroom. Although we live in a changing time, the mission of Kent School remains unchanged – to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence in a family-oriented and student-centered environment which fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world.”

For more information and to view the School’s Return to Campus Plan, visit or call 410-778-4100 ext. 110. Kent School is an independent school serving children from Preschool through Grade Eight.

Hopeful 2020 Campaign Inspires Community to Action

(Easton, Md. – July 16, 2020) A crowd of over 100 people joined Dock Street Foundation, Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Avalon Foundation, Talbot County Arts Council, and Discover Easton to kick-off the celebration of Hopeful 2020 on July 10th in Thompson Park (corner of Dover and Washington Streets) in Easton. The event included the unveiling of two art sculptures, located at the corner of Washington and Dover Streets, created by Maine artist, Charlie Hewitt. His mixed-media work incorporates marquee style lighting into a retro-inspired sign illuminated in colorful hues. Two additional art sculptures by Hewitt have been installed on Harrison Street and on South Washington Street in Easton. A few very generous and “Hopeful” citizens of Talbot County helped fund the signs.

Hopeful 2020 engages citizens to express their feelings of hope for the future by contributing funds to the Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Response Fund in support of nonprofit organizations that provide food, shelter and health services to Talbot County’s underserved residents.


According to Buck Duncan, President of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation (MSCF), the organization has raised over $500,000 to date for the Covid-19 Response Fund and is awarding grants to organizations serving individuals in need in the five-county area. He commented, “Your support and the support of the MSCF will help us move the ball forward.”


The event included music by Robbie Schaefer, a musician, songwriter, and playwright devoted to service through the arts, followed by a brief unveiling ceremony and remarks by Hewitt, Duncan, Joan Levy, Executive Director of the Talbot County Arts Council, and Richard Marks and Amy Haines of Dock Street Foundation. The Talbot Arts Council is participating in the Hopeful 2020 campaign by encouraging arts groups to consider new projects in music, fine arts, craft, poetry and writing related to the theme of “hope.”


Hewitt reflected on his artwork, “The idea of ‘hopeful’ came out of a dark place. I was feeling sad at the time about politics, about addiction, about life.”


Hewitt said he woke up to the idea as soon as he said to himself, “I am not going to accept that.” And the word ‘hopeful’ came to mind. He added, “Hopeful is not a gift – it’s a challenge. To be hopeful requires action, it requires commitment, it requires opening your eyes, it requires making a decision, it requires being part of something. It requires being passionately in love with your country, passionately in love with your family, and passionately in love with everyone in your community. That passion and that love I want back. I want a resurgence in my soul for that kind of life.”


Hopeful organizer Richard Marks of Dock Street Foundation, added about the pandemic, “I have great hope in people that they will figure things out. . . This has forced us to look at things differently and to appreciate life more. I am incredibly optimistic that we will come out the other side of this smarter, wiser, and closer as a community.”


“It is so wonderful to be talking about the place of art in our lives and to have a demonstration of that. Art will change us. Art does change us. It is something to inspire us. We need more of that now,” stated Talbot County Councilman Pete Lesher.


Those interested in taking an action step can do so by donating to Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Response Fund at Bumper stickers and masks are for sale to support the campaign at Vintage Books and Fine Art in Easton.

Haven Ministries Relocates Food Pantries and Centreville Resource Center to Queenstown

With increased demands for its food pantries and overall services, Haven Ministries is relocating its food pantries from Stevensville and Centreville, along with its Centreville Resource Center, to a new Food Pantry/Resource Center at 206 Del Rhodes Avenue in Queenstown as of July 13. In May, the agency provided food items to 113 new people and distributed 25,765 pounds of food from its food pantries representing a 10,000-pound increase in food. By streamlining its services, Haven Ministries is creating a more centralized location to provide services, improving efficiencies for its clients, staff, and volunteers.

“Our new location will be open daily for clients and will offer a store-style model for food selection. We are asking people to first call our Resource Center at 410-827-7194, however, to register with us,” says Krista Pettit, Executive Director of Haven Ministries.

Food will be set up in this new permanent location and restocked easily by volunteers. Instead of receiving a set box of food items, customers will be able to select their own food items twice a month, therefore, eliminating food waste.

“The other benefit to our new location is the ability to move our Centreville Resource Center to this site so that we can connect people to much-needed resources in one location. This will be an added efficiency and will hopefully reach more people in need,” she adds.

Haven Ministries has operated food pantries in two locations in Queen Anne’s County once a month. The first food pantry has operated at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville since 2013. The second food pantry has operated at Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville since 2018.

The consolidation of services is also enabling Haven Ministries to address the increased need for food in the Sudlersville area. On July 9, the organization hosted a pop-up food pantry at the old Middle School in Sudlersville. Pettit adds, “We hope to create a more permanent food pantry in Sudlersville in the future.”

According to Jennifer Small, Salisbury Director of the Maryland Food Bank, the Maryland Food Bank has been looking at the root causes of hunger in the State through a five-year strategic plan. She comments, “One of the solutions we are looking at is developing tools and partnerships to meet clients where they are. This would be a sort of ‘Super Pantry’ which in addition to food, would provide wrap-around resources and health care. When COVID-19 hit, we were unable to move this model forward.”

“What Haven Ministries is doing in Queenstown fits the model we had envisioned. It will be wonderful to have a hub like this in Queen Anne’s County. We hope to see this best practice model in every county in Maryland in the future,” she adds.

Eric Johnson, Emergency Management Planner for Queen Anne’s County, states that the County’s Food Security Task Force, made up of the Department of Social Services, Haven Ministries, the Judy Center, the Maryland Food Bank, the Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, and the Queen Anne’s County Office of Community Services, has been keeping track of the demand for food by zip code. He comments, “We have a plan in place which identifies food insecurity areas and gets food into the hands of the families who need it. The physical locations are important in meeting the needs by connecting people to the resources they need. Having a food pantry centrally located in Queenstown will serve a great need in the County. As resources are scarce everywhere, we are all doing more with less and the consolidation of services makes sense.”

“Even with COVID, we have been seeing a glimmer of strategic work that is helping families in different ways, so we can ultimately end hunger in our communities. A lot of greatness has come out of this crisis. How communities have rallied to support their own has been amazing,” states Small.

Johnson adds, “We are looking at a new normal with the pandemic. We have to continue to work together to come up with creative solutions to meet people where they are.”

Haven Ministries plans to open its new Queenstown location on July 13. The Center, including the food pantry and resource center, will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one day a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Clients are encouraged to register first by calling 410-827-7194. The Resource Center at the Fisher Manor Housing Development in Grasonville is open on the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon. For further information, visit

Helping Seniors in Isolation During COVID-19

Seniors are an especially vulnerable population during COVID-19, given their increased co-morbidities. They often feel stressed and anxious due to the increased risk of not only contracting COVID but also suffering more complications if they contract the virus. Some seniors may also be feeling increased sadness related to the isolation caused by the pandemic.

According to Mary Beth Brinsfield, MSN, CRNP-PMH, PMHNP-BC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at For All Seasons, “A common theme I hear from my older patients is how they miss seeing their families, particularly their grandchildren.”

Rob Sanchez, MD, a family practice physician specializing in geriatrics and hospice medicine, comments, “My senior patients have done pretty well, following the quarantine instructions and staying home.”

He adds that fear seems to be the worst thing facing seniors. He encourages patients to listen to less television and listen to more music. He comments, “I suggested that to a patient, and they called me to tell me how it helped them cope better.”

Dr. Sanchez also gives hope to his patients sharing that at some point that there will be a vaccine for coronavirus and that the medical community knows more about the virus now than they did in February and March.

His wife, Lynn Sanchez, a Mental Health Advocate who also works in her husband’s practice, echoes his sentiments about music, “Music can transport us. Seniors can listen to the music channels on cable television or their Alexa or Spotify. You may even ask a senior family member to dance outside with you.”

In a recent article, “Coronavirus and COVID-19: Caregiving for the Elderly,” by Alicia Arbaje, MD, MPH, Ph.D., who specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Arbaje says, “Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation or loneliness. We need to keep older adults safe, but also keep in mind that social isolation can have a negative impact on older people’s immunity and mental health.”

She encourages technology for helping seniors stay connected, showing them how to video chat with others using smartphones, laptops, or tablets and how to use apps on these devices to provide captions for adults with hearing challenges. She adds, “Encourage friends and family outside of your household to telephone, write notes or send cards to lift your loved one’s spirits.”

Brinsfield adds, “Planning drive-by visits, having grandchildren color pictures or write letters is an easy way to help seniors not feel as isolated and helps to keep them in communication with loved ones.”

She further explains that as neighbors and friends, we can do similar acts that can have a positive impact. Checking in on seniors to make sure they have their basic needs met will help to alleviate the anxiety of how they get food supplies (another stressor) or medications. She states, “Making or bringing them food, could also be a way to show they are cared about and not forgotten. Sending cards and notes of thoughts or humor are another way to assist in brightening their day, as well as making phone calls to them. Outside activity is also important for mental health. Inviting a senior to go for a walk or sit on the porch is an easy way for you and them to receive the mental health benefits of fresh air!”

Lynn Sanchez explains that seniors need to have purpose. She credits Erik Erikson’s theory on human development – engaging older adults to repurpose their life skills, and thus reapply wisdom to new areas of their lives. She suggests such activities as knitting comfort shawls, making face masks to protect against the virus, making an indoor terrarium, purchasing a mechanical pet, sorting old photos and talking about the stories that go with them (like their wedding day), and organizing old photos and recipes.

She shares that a nursing home took the shoes of its patients and put them in the lobby to help tell the stories of their lives. “Sharing the memories and the stories is important. Children can even write questions for their parents to answer.”

Dr. Arbaje asks family members to keep in mind that many older people, especially those living with chronic illness, also have important relationships with their caregivers. She states, “To help them stay in touch, ask their doctors’ offices if they offer telemedicine, which enables doctors and patients to communicate over video, email or other means rather than face-to-face.”

“As we enter Phase 2, we are eager to bring patients back into the office. They appreciate being able to come in and see us. It is great for them to have some type of contact again,” Dr. Sanchez adds.

Lynn Sanchez comments, “Because all of our patients come in masked, we are realizing how important a smile is. We are having to learn all sorts of new non-verbal communication.”

Medical providers remind us that it is also important to note that at any time, if there is concern that a seniors’ mental health is posing a safety risk, 911 should be called.

Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library Opens

Annapolis, Md., (July 22, 2020)– Officials from the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) today opened the new Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library with a virtual ribbon cutting featuring Governor Larry Hogan, Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne Jones and County Executive Steuart Pittman. The $24 million facility is the first newly constructed library in the county in more than 16 years.
“We are proud to open this state-of-the-art library for our customers. This new building represents a renissance in our county’s public libraries,” said AACPL CEO Skip Auld.
The new 32,500 square foot building boasts 85,000 books and materials, a vending café, makerspace, tech zone and teen area, expanded children’s area and outdoor play space, six collaboration spaces, two meeting rooms and more. Environmentally-friendly features of the building include geothermal heating and cooling, five electric vehicle charging stations and 222 individually programmed electro-chromic windows. The new building is certified “Gold” under the U.S. Green Building Council’s process for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It isthe first county building to achieve LEED Gold certification.
“The Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library will serve the needs of all in our community for decades to come. Speaker Busch would surely be proud of this building, which bears his name, as an example of how government can be a leader in sustainable design and construction,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman.
Additional unique features of the building include a digitized nautical map of the Chesapeake Bay serving as flooring in the lobby and café, community living roomand personalized walkway made up of 1,569 individualized bricks featuring messages of hope, rememberance and humor. Wall hangings in the new library display a copy of George Washington’s resignation speech when he resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continential Army and the original poem created by Vincent Godfrey Burns, former Poet Laureate of Maryland, for the opening of the former Annapolis Libray in 1965.
            The branch, like all libraries is open from 10 am to 7 pm Monday – Thursday and 10 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday. It will be open on Sundays from 1-5 pm from September – May. Starting July 27, contactless curbside pickup is also available at the location Monday-Thursday from 3-6 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10 am to noon.
The building is named in honor of late House of Delegates’ Speaker Michael E. Busch, a long-time Annapolis resident. Speaker Busch was a staunch advocate for education, affordable health care and the environment. During his tenure as Speaker, public libraries saw a renaissance with the state providing more than $1 billion in capital and operating funds.
Construction on the building started in August 2018. The design team on the project included: WGM Architecture + Interiors, Margaret Sullivan Studio and Louis Cherry Architecture.

Kent School Welcomes New Trustees

Kent School announced that Todd Gillespie and Tim Lavery were elected to the School’s Board of Trustees to serve three year terms beginning this month.

Todd Gillespie is a lifelong resident of Kent County and an alumnus of Kent School, graduating in 1985. He is also the parent of three Kent School graduates, Annabelle ‘16, Georgia, ‘18 and Eddie ‘20. After attending High Point University, Gillespie returned home to become a 4th generation Gillespie family member to work in the family-run concrete company. He is currently President of Gillespie & Son, Inc. Todd has served on the Board of the Maryland Ready Mix Promotion Council for 13 years, and was President of that Board for two years. He has been a member of the Kent School Buildings and Grounds committee for several years. Todd enjoys skiing, boating and fishing.

For more than two decades, Tim Lavery has helped organizations and teams develop, refine and execute strategy, work more effectively, and navigate change successfully. As a member of senior leadership at management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Tim was responsible for market development in various sectors of the U.S. Army research and development community in addition to leading teams and delivering to clients in the areas of change management, stakeholder engagement and organizational effectiveness. Tim is currently a vice president and organization development manager with global investment management firm T. Rowe Price, where he serves as an internal consultant on matters of team effectiveness, change management, strategy and leader development.
Tim is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore with a major in journalism and a minor in sociology. He holds change management certifications from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, LaMarsh Global, and ProSci. He is a past board member of the Chesapeake Region of the Porsche Club of America and is currently serving on the finance committee of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown. He also supports the monthly Cars on High event in downtown Chestertown.
As an independent, not-for-profit school, Kent School is governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees. The Board is charged with keeping the school “in trust” and securing the school’s future. It does this by setting basic policies including hiring, supporting and evaluating the Head of School, undertaking strategic planning and leading the financial management and support of the School.
Kent School serves children from Preschool through Grade 8 on its riverside campus in historic Chestertown, MD. Kent School’’s mission is to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. Our school’s family-oriented, supportive, student-centered environment fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world.
For more information visit or call 410-778-4100 ext. 110

Improv Returns to Easton for Two Summer Classes

Dan Brown of Reflex Improv is returning to Easton to offer two end-of-summer improv classes. Each class will run for five weeks on Fridays from July 31 and through August 28. Intro to Improv meets weekly from 6:00pm to 7:30pm; Storytelling with Improv meets 7:30pm to 9:00pm on the same evenings.


These summer classes will be held outdoors at a location in downtown Easton. Attendance is limited to 10 students for each class to ensure safe social distancing.  The cost of each 5-week class is $125. Register with a friend and the cost of a class is $100 per person.


In Intro to Improv participants learn and practice the building blocks for creating improvisational scenes. These beginner classes include warm-ups to build camaraderie and exercises to inspire top-of-the-head thinking and creativity. Expect lots of laughter and lessons that can be applied to everyday situations at work and in other areas of life.


Storytelling with Improv, a more advanced class, is open to students who have completed at least one session of Intro to Improv. Building on the basics, participants will expand their skills by learning how to use storytelling techniques within improv scenes.


“I shut down in person improv classes when COVID-19 hit in the spring,” Brown says. “Many of my students hung in with me on Zoom. I was blown away by how much fun we had and how well improv translates on this online forum.”


Brown adds, “I am so glad to bring in-person improv classes back to Easton. Some people tell me that they can’t do improv because they’re not funny. You don’t need to be a natural comedian to enjoy improv. Once you learn the fundamentals the fun will follow,”


The fundamentals of improv include the concept of “Yes – and,” which encourages everyone in a scene to listen to one another and find agreement. Two other improv fundamentals – “I’ve got your back” and making each other look good – encourage team work. “When everyone follows the process, funny happens.” Brown says.


Brown, who teaches in Virginia and Maryland, caught the improv bug while in college, performing in the school’s short-form and sketch program, acting in school and community plays, as well as writing, directing, and starring in many comedy short films. After moving to the Washington, DC area, he took a free workshop at Washington Improv Theater and fell in love with the joy and freedom of long-form improv. His approach to teaching is positive, encouraging, joyful, fast-paced, and, most of all, fun.


Nancy Andrew of Easton took her first improv class with Brown in 2018 and has been playing ever since. “Dan is a great teacher! He encourages us to have fun while we learn. He reminds us that we can’t do it wrong. Improv has helped me be more creative, develop my listening skills, and be more fully present. I have made friends with people I may never have met by having fun with them in improv class.”


Andrew adds, “The Easton improv class had been meeting in person with Dan for almost a year when COVID-19 hit. We did shows together with his other students in Annapolis and even met on our own to practice between formal sessions. We were making plans to do a local show when we had to stay home due to the virus.”


Linda Mastro, one of the Easton improv players, says, “When Nancy invited me to an improv class I was nervous that I wouldn’t get it ‘right’ or be funny or smart enough to follow along. My nervousness left within the first five minutes because Dan Brown is a master at making newcomers feel welcome. My weekly improv class is often the only time – especially during these unsettling COVID days – when I can put aside worries and responsibilities and just have fun!”


Jeremy Hillyard, another Easton improv regular, says, “I truly enjoyed meeting and connecting with a group of complete strangers through laughter, something that just makes life better. I also noticed that improv has made me a quicker thinker and a better listener and communicator. As a high school teacher, I have been able to incorporate a variety of philosophies and games from improv class into my Spanish classroom.”


Hillyard adds, “I really appreciate how Dan has been gracious enough to offer outdoor improv classes in Easton so we can continue honing our improv skills while staying healthy. At all of our outdoor sessions our group practices social distancing by using cones to keep at least six feet between us in our improv circle. I would definitely recommend that everyone try out a class!”


To register for the Easton outdoors improv classes, visit On the Reflex Improv website you can also find information about Zoom online classes that Brown is offering in July and August. The online class topics include Intro to Improv, Patterns and Analogous Scenes, and Intro to Comedic Podcasting.

Women’s Museum Seeks New Home

The Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory (MEBE) Foundation announced Wednesday they will not be continuing their quest of opening a Women’s Museum at the Bloomfield Farmhouse. The County was approached in March to place a four-acre Maryland Historic Trust (MHT) easement surrounding the Bloomfield Farmhouse, located in the middle of White Marsh Park. This structure has been undergoing a renovation project for the purpose of housing a state women’s museum undertaken by the Foundation, a non-profit organization that has a 25-year lease to renovate the structure. The County has supported these efforts, however the acceptance of an MHT easement places financial uncertainty on the county as the property owner and the future developer of the surrounding 300-acre public park.
 Todd R. Mohn, PE, County Administrator stated, “The MHT program is a great program for a smaller property which contains one or more historic structures and features being actively renovated under local government control and government initiative.  Because the program limits so much activity on the structure(s) and the surrounding property, the MHT easement is not a good fit for a large county park such as this, and occupied by multiple public uses. It becomes difficult to follow a long-term easement protocol which limits all improvements without MHT authorization”.
 The MHT easement would provide the women’s museum project approximately $200,000 in State grant funds that would go towards the estimated $4 million project. The foundation is currently solely responsible for the cost of the overall project and has no comprehensive financial plan for the additional funds required to develop the farmhouse as a public venue. Major infrastructure upgrades and preservation of the structure are necessary requirements which also include ADA accessibility, fire suppression systems, accessory building and a public sewer extension.
 Recent meetings between county staff and members of the Foundation led to the County’s reservations in applying an MHT easement encumbrance on the property. This would lead to a result in which if the Foundation was unable to raise sufficient funds to complete the Museum, the County, as the property owner, would still be restricted by the easement thwarting possibilities of finding another beneficial community use for the property.
 Steve Chandlee, Director of Parks and Recreation stated, “The foundation can continue with their plans at Bloomfield. We are concerned about the additional restrictions that come with a 40-year encumbrance, which will restrict public activities and maintenance of White Marsh Park.”
 The County respects and encourages this ambitious project.  It regrets the departure of the Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory Foundation but wise stewardship of parks and public assets does not allow burdening the County with this easement. The County Commissioners wish them best of luck as they pursue their goal of creating the first State Women’s Museum.

Employees Test Positive for Covid-19 at Two Kent Island Restaurants Department of Health Responding

Kent Island, Maryland  On July 14, 2020, the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health was notified immediately by management of Annie’s Paramount Steak and Seafood House and the Jetty Restaurant and Dock Bar of positive COVID-19 test results of several staff.  The Department of Health is working closely with management to sanitize the establishments and to test all staff.  The health department is pleased with the cooperation and swift action taken by both restaurants.
All customers who have been following the CDC guidelines for protecting themselves have a decreased chance of being infected.  Exposed patrons are encouraged to monitor symptoms and watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nauseas or vomiting or diarrhea. 
The Queen Anne’s County Department of Health offers COVID-19 drive through testing for Queen Anne’s County residents on a first come first served basis Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm.  The testing is conducted utilizing a drive through site located in the Department of Health’s parking lot at 206 N. Commerce Street in Centreville. The parking lot is accessed via Banjo lane which runs behind the building. These tests are provided at no charge and do not require a doctor’s referral or appointment. Supplies are limited and will be cancelled in inclement weather. 
For more information or questions, you can also contact the COVID-19 hotline at the Health Department 443-262-9900.

Patient Concierge Program Provides Human Connections During COVID-19

When COVID-19 began spreading through the country, many hospitals suspended elective surgeries and restricted visitors. UM Shore Regional Health was no different, prioritizing the health and safety of our patients and our team members while preparing for a potential surge in COVID-positive patients.
While these suspensions and restrictions were necessary to protect our communities and our team members, adapting to the new circumstances did affect our patients, their families and our staff. Trish Rosenberry, director, Clinical and Ambulatory Services, saw this firsthand while visiting patients on the clinical units. Rosenberry knew something needed to be done to meet the needs for our patients during this pandemic.
At the same time, Jo Anne Thomson, director, Patient Experience, was also addressing patient and family needs from a different vantage point — by setting up virtual family visits. Thomson recognized that meeting virtually would ease concerns and provide much-needed connections between patients and their loved ones. Rosenberry and Thomson joined forces to create a new staff initiative, the Patient Concierge program.
“With visitor restrictions, now more than ever, our patients need acts of kindness and compassion. The impact to patients, because of the limitations, is an increased risk of anxiety, loneliness and fear,” Rosenberry said.
“Our Patient Concierges have been meeting our patients’ non-medical needs through compassionate, caring visits in the midst of crisis. The visits from our staff, the seemingly small acts of kindness — offering empathy and providing a listening ear to patients who are anxious or lonely — have had a tremendous positive impact for all,” Thomson added.
The Patient Concierge program is staffed by team members from departments whose staffing needs are reduced due to COVID-19. They are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Rosenberry and Thomson provide training about the purpose of the program, the Patient Concierge role and appropriate safety measures.
Patient Concierges round in units at Shore Medical Center at Easton, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during weekdays. Included are the Emergency Department, medical surgical unit, neurology and telemetry. These specially deployed team members act as liaisons for patients who are not on isolation. They connect with a warm introduction and take time to talk, to listen and demonstrate caring.
Following her training as a Patient Concierge, staff nurse Janet Holkestad commented, “This is everything I wanted to do as a nurse but didn’t have the time to do.”
The visits also provide staff an opportunity to get to know patients through the use of “Get to Know Me” boards. These boards provide space for personal or family pictures (which can be emailed and added) and answers to great conversation starters, such as “What books do you like to read?” “What makes you happy?” “Do you have pets?” The boards remain with the patient, to be referenced by all clinical staff while providing care. The boards highlight the individuality and uniqueness of each patient.
The Patient Concierge also offers to facilitate family/friend communication. They offer safe, face-to-face visits with patients and help them connect via video-conferencing software to family members, friends and spiritual advisors, including chaplains. They also help to coordinate patient/family communication related to other needs.
“We needed to find ways to stay connected to our patients in this new world of COVID-19, and balance their fears with kindness and compassion,” Thomson said. “This is what’s special about UM Shore Regional Health. We want to make a difference. This is our community. These are our families and friends.”
Matthew Roberts, an exercise physiologist at UM SRH with the Cardiac Rehabilitation program, said his time working as a Patient Concierge has been a valuable experience for his patients, but also for himself.
“My main objective is to ensure that patients are able to connect with loved ones via telephone or other technology due to the restricted visitor policy,” he said. “It is so important for them to have access to their loved ones. Patients truly have a different sparkle in their eyes when they are able to speak with their children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.”
Roberts also found that just spending time with patients, some of whom do not have family, is particularly meaningful to him.
“It is a blessing to meet and get to know many interesting people from all walks of life,” Roberts said “I have talked with many patients about so many things, like gardening, travel, music, careers and stories about their loved ones. And sometimes, I just listen to someone who is having a bad day or who has difficult circumstances in their lives, or are worried about an upcoming surgery. Sometimes it helps to just have someone to talk to.”
Samantha Fitzhugh, a staff nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit, also took on the role of Patient Concierge. Fitzhugh has seen the benefit for patients, but particularly for families who are desperate to see their loved ones.
“These are difficult times and difficult situations for patients and families,” Fitzhugh said. “The family is a crucial support system for patients, but is also crucial in helping in the decision-making process for patient care. As a Patient Concierge, I have been able to assist severely ill patients in connecting with loved ones, but I have also been able to assist our health care team members in communicating with family. In these high stress situations, it is important for them, as well, to have that extra support.”
To date, Rosenberry and Thomson have trained 30 team members to become a Patient Concierge. They feel the role is more effectively carried out by clinical team members.
As staff go back to their original unit of work and UM Shore Regional Health begins the process of re-opening visitor hours, Rosenberry acknowledged that this role may change, but the great work and intent must remain. The goal is to include the aspects of the role in rounding by staff as well as Patient Experience.

View Older News »