Employee of the Month Program
Each month one member of Kuakini's outstanding health care team is selected by Administration from the nominations submitted by fellow employees. The Employee of the Month receives a congratulatory plaque signed by the President and CEO and the Chair of the Board of Directors, a monetary award, and a laser-etched crystal in a ceremony held in the Administrative Board Room. The employee is also recognized with the posting of his/her photo in the lobby of the hospital and receives special parking privileges for one month in a designated stall.
Employee of the Month Profiles
Imaging Services Department
When Kuakini patients come in for a CT (computed tomography) scan in the Imaging Services Department, they may also get a short pep talk from Ferdinand Badua, CT Technologist and Employee of the Month for March, because he knows what it’s like to be a patient getting a scan.
A recent lymphoma survivor, Ferdinand has gained a new lease on life and a clearer purpose. “Maybe God helped me survive so I can tell patients that there is a purpose for their survival,” he said. “When you are given a second chance, you take life more seriously, you try to live life more productively and you (have) more gratitude. I am now more thankful for the things I have.”
He talks to patients and shares his story because sometimes, he said, they feel helpless. “I tell them that there is hope in treatment, that they can beat the disease, that it’s not the end of the road and there’s purpose. I let them know that there is a reason for everything and encourage them to never give up,” he said. “I see them as people, not as patients or bodies.”
Ferdinand joined Kuakini in 1995 as an X-Ray technician in the Imaging Services Department. After six years, he became a CT Technologist. His main responsibility includes using the GE LightSpeed Scanner to perform CT scans. He received his associate’s degree in radiology from Loma Linda University in Southern California where he worked for one year before moving back to Hawaii.
When Ferdinand found out about his nomination, he wanted to give the award to somebody else who was “more deserving.” He said he was not a solo act and that he would not be able to do his job well without other people’s help. “I think everybody plays a role, not just one person, because we work as a team. If someone would get the award, it should be the whole team.”
Ferdie (his nickname) is a “true inspiration” to the department, said his supervisor Chris McIntire. “He leads the department in positive patient responses and performs all duties flawlessly. We are a better hospital with Ferdie doing his thing. Everybody loves Ferdie.”
And Ferdie loves Kuakini. “It’s like family here…It’s small but we have a family work environment,” he said. “This makes it better for patients because they feel the closeness of the people from Kuakini. It makes them more comfortable, and the interaction with them becomes more personal.”
Ferdie likes going to the beach to surf, mostly on the south shore. During his free time, he enjoys working in his yard and walking his dogs.
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Supervisor, Financial Accounting
Hard work and excellence are main traits of Ida Thiede’s life, as a person and as a Kuakini Health Care Team member, thanks in part to her mother who imparted these values upon her.
“My mother has always taught me… if you don’t do something right, might as well not do it at all,” she said.
Ida is the Supervisor of Financial Accounting in Kuakini’s Accounting Department. Her nominator describes her as “a tireless worker who is 100+ percent committed to her job and to Kuakini” and who oftentimes “works more than a 40-hour workweek.”
“Ida makes sure that accounting books and financial statements are accurate and timely,” her nominator said. “Ida is a hands-on supervisor who was a stabilizing force in the fiscal function several years ago.”
Working as a senior accountant at that time, Ida had just submitted her application for supervisor when she was asked the following day to handle some of the duties of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and Controller positions that were temporarily vacant. Bracing herself for a heavier workload and a bigger responsibility, she managed Kuakini’s financial operations with a staff of three Accounts Payable Specialists and two Accountants.
“There was a lot of work but I enjoyed it. It was a period of growth. I learned a lot,” Ida said. “I realized that I could do a lot more than I could actually do.” The experience helped her become better, she said, but she could not have done it without the help of the staff.
“I like working for Kuakini. The people here are really nice. It’s hard to beat that.”
Ida’s first exposure to Kuakini’s hospitality and compassion was in 2000 when her mother came in for a procedure. The nurses were exceptionally nice to her family and she wondered what it was like to be working in Kuakini. In 2001, her question was answered. Ida became Senior Accountant in the Accounting Department. In 2006, she was promoted to Supervisor.
“People think accounting is boring. There are no gray areas, it’s black or white. It is definite. There are rules for things,” she said. “But I like that. It all makes sense.”
Life is good right now,” Ida said. She plays tennis and cheers for her son’s high school basketball games during her spare time. If she had more time, she would like to read more books.
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Nurse Assistant, Skilled Nursing Facility
Kuakini Geriatric Care
For the past 27 years, Estrelita Lapurga has started her 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at Kuakini’s Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) with prayers.
“Before I step out of the elevator to start my shift, I pray that I can take care of myself and the residents,” Estrelita said. “I tell the residents that I hope to see them again outside of Kuakini. I want to give them hope and reassurance so they will get better.”
Her strong compassion for the SNF residents resulted in loyalty and admiration from them and their families. Residents would ask for “Ester” (her nickname) to take care of them and family members would say “hello” when they saw her outside of Kuakini.
Ester’s genuine caring attitude helped her earn her second nomination for Employee of the Month. Her first nomination was in 2009.
“When we brought Mom from Kuakini’s acute care to the 6th floor of SNF, Ester made our family (three brothers) feel very confident and comfortable that we selected Hale Pulama Mau for Mom’s rehabilitation,” said her nominator Earl Miyamoto. “Our anxiety about Mom’s initial care was eased by Ester’s professionalism and caring manners. Thanks to Hale Pulama Mau for having a nurse such as Ester on the staff.”
“I make sure the residents are safe, comfortable and protected… The residents are our customers here, without them I will not get paid,” she said. “We have to treat them well. If we treat them well, they will (tell others about) us to the community and then more people will come here.”
Ester’s responsibilities as a Nurse Assistant include tube feeding, oral suctioning and wound dressing change, aside from basic bedside and hygiene care such as bathing, feeding, and fixing beds. She started as a Certified Nurse Assistant in the surgical unit of Kuakini Medical Center in 1980. In 1986, she transferred to KGC’s Skilled Nursing Facility.
“Kuakini is a wonderful place to work in. I like it because I meet people from different cultures and ethnicities,” Ester said. “I feel that if I leave this place, half of my heart would be gone because I will miss the people here.”
Ester recently retired from her position as a part-time interpreter for the Department of Health’s Bilingual Health Service, which she had worked at since 1992. During her spare time, she takes care of her 90-year-old mother, watches The Filipino Channel or movies with her husband, goes to the mall or catches up on her chores.
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Delia Bautista, Employee of the Month for December, loves her job. And that’s probably an understatement because sometimes, she said, she wants to go to work even while she’s at home.
“I like dealing with patients, with people. I like working at this hospital…I consider Kuakini my second home and my co-workers like my sisters.”
Delia enjoys working with elderly patients because they remind her of her parents. Treating them well is her way of honoring her father who passed on in 2009 in the Philippines.
“Since I wasn’t able to take care of my dad, I want to do it for others,” she said. “The best part of my job is working with older people.”
Most of the elderly patients specifically ask for Delia to take blood from them because of her gentle manner, one co-worker said. “She is very professional and gentle.”
“Our lab assistants don’t often get recognition yet Delia consistently exhibits wonderful patient and staff relations and a high level of skill,” her nominator said.
Although she didn’t think she deserved it, Delia said she is “honored and proud and feels blessed” to be given the Employee of the Month award. In fact, working for Kuakini in a position similar to her training and experience in her home country already makes her feel doubly blessed and grateful.
Delia worked in temporary jobs in schools, food and retail stores after immigrating from the Philippines in 2008. She said hope for a good job was waning until she saw the advertisement for a laboratory assistant at Kuakini. She immediately sent in her resume and after a few months, was hired full time in the Laboratory Department in March 2009. She was ecstatic.
As a laboratory assistant, Delia’s primary responsibility is phlebotomy, or collecting blood from patients. Her duties also include blood processing and sterilizing infectious specimens.
Delia likes walking in the park with her husband during her free time. They have two children who live with them and two others who live in the Philippines.
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“Generous” – that’s the first word that comes to mind when you talk to Suzette Lau-Hee, a two-time Employee of the Month awardee. Co-workers also describe her as thoughtful, creative, positive and brimming with love for the 26 Kuakini Home residents under her care.
“I try to do what I can for the residents. I enjoy doing things for them,” Suzette said. “I’m very blessed to be here, to be part of their lives… and to see the smile on their faces when they show their appreciation – that’s the rewarding part.”
As a clerk for Kuakini Home since July 2004, Suzette’s responsibilities include keeping the resident records up-to-date, handling paperwork for new and discharged residents, coordinating activities or excursions, providing tours for prospective residents, and planning holiday parties.
But Suzette always goes beyond her job description, adding a special touch into everything she does. Her nominator recalled seeing her serving everybody during the recent Mother’s Day and Father’s Day piano concert for the residents.
“In addition to making sure the piano students had a snack, she also personally prepared a special lunch for the residents,” her nominator said. “She cooked traditional food items that the elderly like to eat and are not available to them, and (she) wants to make sure that they feel special.” For the Father’s Day celebration, Suzette ordered bentos.
“Suzette is an extraordinary employee. It takes a special person to work with the elderly. She does it with a positive attitude and a caring heart,” said her nominator. “And she makes Kuakini Home a home for everyone.”
She has also volunteered to help with numerous Kuakini community activities such as the Great Aloha Run Expo and the recent Liliha Town History Walk.
Outside of work, Suzette is a member of the Japanese Women’s Society, which raises funds for Kuakini Home, and has been serving the organization for the past 20 years. She likes shopping and traveling with her husband.
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Intensive Care Unit
When he was told about a “surprise” at work, Cameron Pila was ecstatic. His first thought was that the new beds for the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) were being delivered. But to his surprise, he was recognized as the Employee of the Month for October. (And yes, the beds are being delivered this month, too.)
Always thinking of patients first, Cameron’s passion for service, caring and excellence stands out in the ICU. His nominator described him as “very knowledgeable about his unit” and one of the “most dedicated employees.”
“He sacrifices his own breaks to take care of patients and assist staff,” the nominator said.
“When my patient gives me a squeeze in the hand or a pat on the back as a sign of gratitude, it feels good,” Cameron said. “My whole job is all about seeing a patient at the grocery store or at the beach looking healthy and happy.”
Cameron started out in Kuakini as a part-time Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) in the ICU and the Medical/Surgical department in 2006. He eventually moved to a fulltime position as a Healthcare Technician in the ICU in 2008. In addition to CNA duties such as bathing, cleaning, and fixing beds, he is responsible for setting up and preparing all instruments and supplies for bedside procedures such as arterial or chest tube insertion, or a tracheostomy (a procedure that creates a surgical airway in the trachea) or thoracentesis (a procedure that removes excess fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall). When needed, he serves as an assistant to the attending physician.
“In the ICU, doctors and nurses work together. There are no egos, our common denominator is patient care,” he said. “Everybody works with everybody else. We are like family.”
Cameron found himself at Kuakini after his father’s physician, who was on Kuakini’s medical staff, “ordered” him to become a CNA and apply at Kuakini, seeing that he took care of his dad very well. Cameron has not looked back since then.
“I’m on the path I’m supposed to take,” he said, humbled and pleased at the recognition. “There are other employees that are more deserving, but I’m thankful.”
Cameron plays golf at the Ala Wai Golf Course or Makalena Golf Course in Waipahu twice a month, and takes a walk three times a week to keep himself healthy.
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Social Work Assistant
Care Management / Medical Social Work
Patience and a smile define Josette Karsk as a Kuakini Health Care Team member.
Currently one of two Social Work Assistants (SWA) that cover the Medical Center, Josette works long hours and makes sure the patients are discharged on time, her nominator said. “She always has a smile, no matter how swamped in paperwork she is. She has excellent customer service with patients and their families, and with co-workers.”
Josette helps Case Managers and Medical Social Workers find a facility for discharged patients in rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, care homes or foster homes. The challenge – and joy – of the job, Josette said, is being able to help the patient’s family understand that their loved one will be placed in another facility that is caring, safe and appropriate.
“Sometimes the families are not happy (with having to move their loved one to another facility). The challenge is to be patient in trying to help them figure it out, to explain the process and make them understand that it is better for them,” she said.
Josette started out as a Unit Clerk Secretary on Waikiki 4 right out of boot camp from the U.S. Navy. She liked working here at Kuakini so much that she stayed for the next 25 years, moving on to the Progressive Care Unit, Cardiac Care Unit and finally to the Care Management/ Medical Social Work department.
“I have lifelong friends here. It’s a small hospital… you feel welcome like a family,” Josette said. “When you see someone, everybody says ‘how are you’ or ‘how are the kids.’ We’re small enough to have that family community, that’s why I like working here. I’m also fortunate to have supervisors and managers that are helpful and open to seeing me succeed in what I want to do.”
Now retired from the Navy, Josette is also going back to school for a degree. During her spare time, she enjoys the three R’s – running, reading and resting and spends time with her family at the beach, kayaking, or the movies.
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In 2009, while finishing his graduate degree in Physical Therapy (PT) at the University of Washington, Shaw Okawara’s clinical supervisor told him about a job opening for a Physical Therapist at Kuakini. Within two months after graduating, Shaw joined Kuakini’s Rehabilitation Services Department.
“This is the perfect place to start working right after graduation. I’m glad to be here,” Shaw said. “They give you a mentor and teach you what you need to know. They educate you. I really like the nurturing aspect of Kuakini.” Shaw credits his department colleagues, especially Senior Physical Therapist Kelly Bennet, for his recognition as Employee of the Month.
One of his nominators described Shaw as positive, patient, dedicated, reliable, excellent, and someone who goes beyond the call of duty. “He sees the potential in patients…and has the ability to encourage and motivate with his words,” the nominator said. “He is consistently flexible in meeting the demands of the Department, including covering both acute and geriatric services, weekend staffing, and taking the lead within the PT group.”
Shaw is one of the 20 Health Care Team members in the department, which includes other physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. Their primary goal is to facilitate rehabilitative treatment and to discharge patients from Kuakini in the safest manner.
Shaw recalls working with a patient who had difficulty moving, sitting, standing and breathing. After four months of therapy, the patient could walk on his own. He occasionally visits the staff to show his gratitude. “I was impressed by his improvement,” Shaw said, brimming with pride for the patient’s progress and perseverance.
Shaw has come full circle in his quest to help others with muscular weakness. He is inspired by his father who, despite being physically disabled, managed to show him that life is a blessing. “He couldn’t do regular things with me like play ball, but he was always happy, ” Shaw said. “I got into the profession because I want people to live a full life and to have joy despite the handicap they have. It was a blessing that God put me in Kuakini out of all the hospitals here in Hawaii.”
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Medical-Surgical Float Pool
Rozelyn Bermudez likes people. After working in the tourist industry for several years, Rozelyn wanted to be involved with other kinds of people and have a greater impact on their lives. She decided to go back to school and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
“I like to take care of people and I want to see them get better,” said Rozelyn. “I really like giving patients the care they need. Being a good nurse to my patients is so rewarding. I am touched when I bring a smile to my patient’s faces.” she said. Her compassion and dedication have been rewarded - Rozelyn has been chosen as Kuakini’s Employee of the Month for July.
Rozelyn’s nominator said she demonstrates caring and respectful behavior towards her patients in addition to being competent in her job functions. “Many patients and families have given positive comments regarding her care and specifically named her as a nurse who gives ‘excellent and exceptional care.’ She follows through with tasks efficiently and consistently. She remains calm even with challenging patients and prioritizes the tasks to promote a patient’s recovery. You can count on Roz to get the job done!”
Rozelyn admits that she gets emotionally affected when she sees her patients change from the time they are admitted until they are discharged from Kuakini. “I’m so happy for them. I want to help as much as possible,” she said.
Rozelyn joined Kuakini Medical Center in April 2011 as a Nurse Aide in the Float Pool. She transferred to Ewa 4 six months later. In April 2013, she was hired as an RN for the Float Pool. She is currently in the Registered Nurse (RN) Preceptor Program at Kuakini. This is an eight-week orientation session provided to newly hired RNs to help them get used to operational procedures and to ensure that their skills are up to date.
“Every day is a challenge, but I like it,” Rozelyn said. “Wherever I go, no matter who my patients are, I give it my all.” Rozelyn floats between Ewa 4, Makai 4, Makai 5 and the OTED (Orientation, Training and Development) unit. “I love to take care of everyone, no matter what their age is. It is so satisfying to be with patients and the friendly people here at Kuakini,” she said.
When she is not at work, Rozelyn said her number one hobby and priority is spending time with her husband and two sons, ages 16 and 7. They enjoy family activities, such as going to see comedy and action movies.
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Doreen Iba, Kuakini’s Employee of the Month for June, developed an interest in oncology while she was a
student at the Med-Assist School of Hawaii. After graduation, she worked at two local health care facilities before joining Kuakini Medical Center’s Medical Records department in 1994. Doreen started as a Clerk II and worked during the evening shift. Within a year, a day shift position opened in the department for an Oncology Abstractor. This worked out well for Doreen because she wanted to change her work schedule to the day shift.
Her dedication and outstanding performance of her job duties is evident in her work ethics. “She is so faithful to her tasks and cares about her oncology patients. She is an excellent organizer,” said Linda Nickerson, contracted Manager, Health Information. “Doreen works with her co-workers very well and helps them with their tasks. She never needs supervision,” Linda said.
As an Oncology Abstractor, Doreen oversees the day-to-day functions of Kuakini’s tumor registry. She reviews every patient discharge record and is responsible for collecting information on all patients diagnosed with cancer or treated for cancer at Kuakini. She submits that information to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Database. The information serves as a resource for physicians to use to develop more specific and individualized treatment plans for their patients, as well as helps physicians create clinical trials for cancer-related studies.
“I like my job because there is always something different happening daily,” Doreen said. In addition to her tumor registry responsibilities, Doreen is the project manager for the moving of approximately 350,000 medical records from its first floor storage area in the Kuakini Physicians Tower (KPT) to the seventh floor of the KPT building.
“Doreen is very meticulous and extremely dependable. She is very friendly and works beyond the scope of her job,” Linda said.
Her interest in oncology has influenced her creative talents. “I wanted to do something for breast cancer survivors,” said Doreen, who used a hat pattern from a catalog to sew a hat-themed quilt. Two other quilts that she sewed featured birdhouses and flowers that she drew freehand. Doreen also knitted hats for a physician’s chemotherapy patients. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping on the internet for clothes.
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Emergency Services Technician I
Dennis Josiah joined Kuakini in 1980 as a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) whose responsibilities included assisting with Medevac arrivals that came via the helipad atop the newly constructed Hale Pulama Mau building. “We used to get three to five Medevac patients each week,” Dennis said.
Several things have changed since then. Dennis’ job title is now Emergency Services Technician I, Medevac helicopters have not come to Kuakini for a long time and the former eight-bed Emergency Room is now a
16-bed Emergency Services facility.
“The ER is much busier now,” Dennis said. “I like being involved in patient care as well as the challenges and the camaraderie.”
His cheerful attitude and outstanding customer service skills were factors in his being chosen as Employee of the Month for May. His nominator noted Dennis’ dedication to Kuakini Medical Center and said “his caring and dedication knows no end.”
“Since caring is our tradition, this should be the standard for all Kuakini Health Care Team members,” Dennis said. He said he enjoys working collaboratively with the staff and helping with various department needs such as fixing equipment, ordering supplies, and restocking shelves.
“It is important to be self motivated and want to make a positive difference in someone’s life,” Dennis said. “I like learning from the people I deal with. There are a lot of good people working here at Kuakini. I am blessed to know them.”
Dennis has helped deliver several babies in the ER and has been given sound advice from older patients. He said cases involving abuse are tough. “You learn to deal with it and make the best of the different situations you encounter. I have learned a lot from the patients. I like making a positive impact on others,” Dennis said.
Dennis likes to golf, although he has not had time to do so for a couple of years. Besides keeping busy with housework, Dennis and his wife like to fix homes and then rent them out. His future plans include spending more time with his five grandchildren.
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If Dean Kaneshiro had his way, his Employee of the Month recognition would be shared among all his co-workers in Cardio-Pulmonary Services. “This past year has been very busy for us and everyone has stepped up to help in the department,” Dean said. He acknowledges his teammates for going above and beyond their job responsibilities to provide good patient care.
Dean was chosen as April’s Employee of the Month because of his outstanding job performance and for providing good customer service. “When he is called to provide treatment or if a patient needs help, he comes right away. He talks professionally, does not have an attitude problem and gets along well with everybody,” wrote his nominator. He was also described as a hard working person and team player who exemplifies Kuakini’s Core Values.
“I like helping patients and seeing them improve. I like knowing that I had a positive impact on their life and their families,” Dean said. He said he feels good about being able to comfort patients and their families and make their situation easier to manage.
Dean joined the Kuakini Health Care Team in 1991 as a Certified Respiratory Technician who worked on weekends while he attended classes at Kapiolani Community College. In 1992, he became a full time Registered Respiratory Therapist at Kuakini. His current duties include providing patients with respiratory therapy, checking patients who are on ventilators, and administering pulmonary function tests to inpatients and outpatients in the Pulmonary Services Lab. He also makes daily assignments in the department and assists with payroll records.
Because of respiratory therapy’s role in patient care, “we get to go everywhere, meet everybody and interact with so many people,” Dean said. “There are good people in this organization (Kuakini Health System). The people here are the heart and soul of Kuakini. If I could, I would retire here,” Dean said.
Dean likes to fish. However, he works two weekends each month and prefers to spend time with his three-year old daughter on the weekends when he is not working. “I enjoy watching her grow up. Since I want to spend my weekend time wisely, I am lucky if I can go fishing twice a year,” Dean said.
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