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Nurse leader extends patient care in the sky

La Grange- Ellen Hilsabeck, RN, believes patient care is the most important aspect of her job. As the charge nurse and clinical coordinator of the day surgery unit at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, Hilsabeck continues to go the extra mile for her patients every day-- even 12,000 feet in the air.

In late May, while traveling on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, a request was made for help from any medical staff on the plane to provide care to a four-year-old girl experiencing an allergic reaction to a peanut.  When Ellen responded, she found the child and a frantic mother traveling alone with her six young children.  After helping the child, the plane made an emergency landing in Kansas City. Hilsabeck continued to assist the rest of the family, as they worked with Southwest to make arrangements to get to a hospital.     

“I was very happy to help,” said the Downers Grove resident.  “Though the experience was scary, the little girl felt much better by the time we landed in Kansas City and eventually made a full recovery.”

For her commitment to her staff and to Adventist Midwest Health’s mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ, Hilsabeck was one of five leaders to receive the organization’s pillar award at Adventist Midwest Health’s leadership development institute on June 22.

Hilsabeck’s day surgery unit has received exceptionally high scores in physician, patient and employee satisfaction.  She says her 14 team members are extremely committed to providing high quality care to every patient, and she was very “shocked” to win a Pillar Award for doing a job that she loves.  She said being involved with patient care and her staff are the best parts of her career.  Both of these aspects have made her 42 years as a nurse enjoyable.  

“Receiving this award was an incredible honor because it was based on what my unit represents to the hospital,” said Hilsabeck. “I have such a wonderful team that shows high scores in each level of satisfaction.” 

Hilsabeck and her husband, Lee, have two children and two grandchildren.  She is a graduate from St. Luke’s and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She joined Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital as a nurse in the emergency department in 1971.  She then transferred to the day surgery unit in 1985, where she has worked ever since.    

“Ellen is an extraordinary leader and member of our staff,” said Mary Murphy, RN, MSN, vice president/chief nursing officer at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.  “Not only does she provide high quality patient care, but she continuously encourages her staff and facilitates their growth.”

Pillar award nominations are solicited from Adventist Midwest Health’s senior leadership team. To be eligible, nominees must demonstrate commitment to the organization’s “S.H.A.R.E.” standards of behavior: Sense, Help, Acknowledge, Respect and Explain. They must also demonstrate measurable results on the quarterly goals set for their departments. These goals are organized under the seven categories, or pillars, of spiritual life, people, clinical, service, community, growth and stewardship.