WNY Frontline Heroes – Lynne Laverdi

The Healthcare Executive Forum (HEF) of Western New York is very proud to recognize and award the following amazing individual as a “WNY Frontline Hero.”

Lynne Laverdi: A True Leader at the Front We Can All Get Behind

Lynne Laverdi, Director of Nursing

Lynne Laverdi, Director of Nursing, McAuley Residence, Catholic Health

“Just like every facility throughout the world we just weren’t prepared for, and still don’t know, what we will face,” says Lynne Laverdi, Director of Nursing at McAuley Residence, the skilled nursing and sub-acute rehabilitation facility on the Kenmore Mercy Hospital campus. Around the beginning of the Pandemic, during a leadership shuffle, Lynne was asked to step in as Acting Administrator of the 160 bed, 190 or so staff facility that splits into care for long-term and sub-acute patients. She says the exact numbers of staff aren’t that important to her, because she sees everyone throughout her system as individuals, all in the same boat. “During the COVID surge, we have worked collaboratively across Catholic’s system to take on admissions in a rapid manner, working together to put protocols in place so that now local patients can be quickly and safely accommodated,” notes Lynne. Sounding like the strong leader that her staff relied on in the most difficult of times, Lynne’s empathetic side shines through in everything she says and does.

“I could just see the fear in the eyes of my staff, but I remember having to set my feelings aside to swab the first patient to test. I just kept thinking to myself, this is exactly why I went into nursing. No matter what, I must take care of those who can’t care for themselves.”

“I remember the initial first positive COVID-19 case we had, and I was very fearful myself. We didn’t know how contagious the virus really was, and what were the long term affects. I remember thinking if it was contagious even with wearing all the protective gear recommended by the CDC,” says Lynne. “I could just see the fear in the eyes of my staff, but I remember having to set my feelings aside to swab the first patient to test. I just kept thinking to myself, this is exactly why I went into nursing. No matter what, I must take care of those who can’t care for themselves.”

Leading by example and being a steady post to lean on in the midst of a tempest isn’t all that Lynne is about, as she also finds ways to constantly pass on her knowledge to others. “After that, I went back to teach the staff exactly how to properly don and doff PPE to protect themselves and to prevent the spread, how to work together to get through it,” Lynne remembers. She then spent the year organizing an increasingly strong team that learned to rely on each other for the sake of so many Western New York patients that often had no others to whom they could turn at such a dire time.

“We have many elderly people at McAuley with a range of cognitive issues. Prior to the pandemic, we had a routine for them. They ate their meals in the dining room and lots of activities for them, suddenly everything changed. They no longer can come out of their rooms, they now have to eat in their own rooms, their families can’t come in and visit. They get easily confused with changes in routine. Can you imagine how fearful it is for them,” asks Lynne? “We’ve been lucky to have close coordination with the newly formed St. Joe’s Post Acute COVID Center facility, where any resident who tests positive can be quickly transferred out of our facility to the COVID center, who specialize in caring for those with COVID. The facility was implemented to help prevent the spread of COVID within the LTC facilities. It was very sad to see our confused patients have to leave their home and go to a whole different facility where they are seeing people they are unfamiliar with wearing gowns, masks, and faceshields, and still the family can’t visit to reassure them,” says Lynne in her usual heartfelt tone. “That’s is why, just reaching out and gently rubbing someone’s hand to let them know they are loved and not alone can mean everything,” she says.

Lynne’s wellspring of energy seems to come from the realization that her family and community are all facing the same hardships. “I have a granddaughter that is 1 ½ years old, I have parents in their 80s and an aunt and uncle who are 89, just like every other family, we haven’t been able to have our regular family dinners and gatherings. We all are facing unprecedented issues brought on by this Pandemic that make it so difficult for all individuals to thrive. So, it’s not only in our facilities, but it is everywhere. I have a deeper sense of respect for all mankind and I am very passionate about helping those in need during this terrible time,” says Lynne. “Just like many of us who live in Western New York, the restrictions implemented have definitely impacted our normal lives and can become frustrating, but we know it was something that had to be done to stop the spread of this terrible virus. I am glad to see people taking this seriously and I am very hopeful the vaccine role out will enable us to return to some type of normalcy in the near future, until then we have to stay vigilant. It seems most people have a new heartfelt and empathetic approach to everyone facing these difficulties.”

Lynne also attributes the success of her team at McAuley to their leadership and to her teammates themselves. “We have wonderful support from our corporate headquarters who are very much involved in our day-to-day operations,” she explains. “We have lots of meetings on how best to accommodate patients, taking a proactive approach. For example, we have had meetings over the last couple months with hospitals, long-term care facilities, home care teams, all making sure we are proving the best care while being prepared for any eventuality,” she says. “Everything is always changing, so we share as much info as possible, making patient admissions and encounters as smooth as possible. ” Lynne mentions.

“It is OK to voice frustration. As long as we listen to each other, support each other, and have hope. We have to have hope. We have to get through.”

Admitting that all this can be challenging when front line staff face unbelievably long hours under much stress, Lynne seems to know just what to say to strengthen those working with her side-by-side, when asked for a message to give to all those on Western New York’s front lines. Lynne says, “Be strong, stay vigilant, and support your staff, your patients and their families, remembering to laugh when you can and to cry as often as you need. Just keep going, be receptive to change while supporting each other,” she implores. “It is OK to voice frustration. As long as we listen to each other, support each other, and have hope.” She emphasizes, “We have to have hope. We have to get through.”

When praised for her efforts on behalf of all of us in the community, Lynne does what real leaders do, truly and effortlessly deflecting the praise to others. “I don’t even consider myself a frontline worker. Frontline workers are the nurses with the pressure marks around their noses from constant mask wearing, the tired housekeeper who has to be extra cautious, and everyone in our facility facing such incredible challenges every day,” Lynne says. “I just did what needed to be done throughout the Pandemic, and will continue to do so. I am just happy to work with such a great team.” When asked for one word to sum up her thoughts on where we go from here, Lynne again knows just the right communication to unify us all, leaving us with a message we can all get behind with the knowledge that someone like Lynne is leading the charge. Lynne’s word for us… “persevere!”