Stefanie Dell'Aringa

Freelance Writer

Author: Stefanie Dell'Aringa (Page 1 of 2)

Four Little Words

I had a horrible dream last night, the usual culmination of the day’s thoughts translated into vivid imagery that morphed into the last terrifying moments of my life. I found myself in New York. The date was September 12. The World Trade Center was on fire, the result of yet another terrorist attack. “They’re doing it one day later than the last one!” I screamed. I saw all of this from a bridge inside of a car that I think was being driven by my husband. I noticed that my daughters and one of their friends were also in the car. The next thing we knew, as dreams often change abruptly and without reason, half of the bridge was missing, and we all went over in the car. The car then disappeared and I saw all of our bodies plunging down to our deaths. I had those few seconds to ponder my life and decide what I wanted my last words to be. I found myself saying out loud, “I love you, Lord.” And then I woke up right before I hit the water.

Who knows why we dream what we dream? I only know that I had been thinking about 9/11 all day. Earlier, I had posted on FB about a flag ceremony I had attended. I also had read an excerpt from a church sermon on terrorism. Topics surrounded by fear and frustration, and moments I can’t control generally push themselves into my slumber uninvited, and go to war with me. Why should this night be any different?

But what I learned from this particular dream is that my mind, even though it was in a dream state, decided on those four words after fully believing they’d be my last. And because that’s the case and since I’m still alive, I should probably concentrate on those words a little more.

What am I doing every day to say, “I love you, Lord?” Am I helping others? Am I speaking truth? Am I seeing other people as God sees them? Am I telling God with my actions, not just my words, that I love him?

I’m sure I fail miserably, being the mess that I am. We’re all sinners falling short of the glory of God. But the main thing is to consider the four words, to contemplate them not just daily, but hourly, even bringing them to mind each minute with each task I’m doing. It is my goal today and every day moving forward to truly live out the words, “I love you, Lord.”

Now Cut That Out!

In another two months, it will be cutting time. It’s a dreadful event and something I hate doing. But without cutting, something precious will die.

I’m referring to a large tropical plant that I place outside in springtime. I have no idea what kind of plant it is, only that it grows without much care at a crazy fast rate right after I place it outside. It sprouts new leaf clusters in all directions, increasing its width and height so drastically that by the time fall and the danger of frost come along, I can’t fit it through the door opening to bring it back inside. So I cut it.

I’m one of those weird people who is convinced that plants can feel, so cutting it is just an awful thing for me to have to do. I love gardening and I spend a good amount of time looking at my plants and flowers trying to determine what it is they need. They speak to me, not in words, but in texture, height, firmness, color. Every October, this plant screams vibrancy, so it’s a terrible loss to cut off healthy growth. I’m removing perfectly healthy baby shoots, performing an abortion of sorts, and the plant doesn’t know why.

I try to remove only enough babies to get my beloved plant to fit through the door, and I do it as quickly as possible. If someone were cutting off two or three of my fingers or toes, or an arm, that’s how I’d want it done. Quickly. Once I do that, I drag it in and tell it how very sorry I am. (Yes, I talk to my plants and my husband thinks I’m bats.) Then, I give it a good dose of water and walk away to dispose of the remains of the plant’s family. Ugh.

If plants could talk, I’m sure this one would tell me how cruel I am, how much it is hurting, and how dare I just cut it like that without even some anesthetic first? It would say for me to leave it outside, leave it alone, not knowing that it will die if I do that. It would think it knew what was best for it, but I know more than a silly plant.

Season after season proves that this repeated action is actually beneficial. The plant always rebounds. It’s healthier after the hack. That got me thinking about humans and the things we hack.

Some stuff needs to be trimmed, and other stuff God hacks for us for whatever reason. Bad things, relationships, habits and addictions that we choose to cut out, kill or allow to fade away can help us to get better, be healthier. We’ve seen this and we understand. It never feels good in the moment, and oftentimes we think we know better than God, but in the end we’re better for it.

What we don’t understand, whether we’ve lived on this earth for a few years or several decades, is that God can hack in mysterious ways. There are things we just can’t comprehend, like how can a benevolent God rob a sweet man of his wife, leaving him to raise their two toddlers alone? Suffering is our greatest struggle and we often just shake our heads or fists at God and ask, “Why?” We do this because we think we know better than God.

Maybe, just maybe, hacking leads to growth. Perhaps suffering can lead to beauty. The neglected child who grows up to be loved by her husband unconditionally appreciates that love so much more than if she were loved properly all along.

The middle-class man who grows wealthy, loses everything, declares bankruptcy, and then grows his business again delights in his ability to purchase a new home. He has a greater appreciation for it.

The wife whose husband cheated and left learns to rely fully on God and trust through countless prayers and tears that He will cause her husband to return. When he does – three years later –  there is forgiveness, a reconciled marriage and faith perfected.

And the gifted musician, who loses his finger in a car accident and has to go through several surgeries to repair it, relearns his instrument with a renewed tenacity, musicality and fervor that spreads joy to every listener.

The lesson learned from our own and others’ struggles is that there will be new growth, the proverbial sunshine after the rain, the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in the cloud. We just have to be okay with the “hacking” that comes first.

My plant will continue to live. It will grow. It will thrive. And how will it do this? Through a natural reliance on a single source of light. God is light, and we can do the same.

10 Reasons Why Crock Pots Rock

slowcooker-71mvruT5elL._SL1500_Yesterday, I bought some boneless ribs at Aldi and wondered what I could do with them. Aha! I’ll put them in the crock pot and dump a bottle of BBQ sauce on top. Simple. Two steps. Put meat in. Pour on sauce. Three hours later, the meat was fork tender and tasty. I had some leftover potatoes and carrots that I mixed in near the end and marveled at the easy and delicious dinner I made with such little effort. That’s when I decided to write a top ten list of reasons why I love my crock pot, as nerdy as that may be.

  1. You can put practically any cut of meat into a crock pot and it will become tender and juicy. I’ve tossed in the toughest of roast beast, slathered in some kind of savory sauce. It always seems to fall off the bone, melt in your mouth and generally make everyone a little happier.
  2. You can leave the house while your meal is cooking and not worry that you’re going to burn the house down. Come home from wherever you were and you’ll find the house is not on fire, nobody in it is on fire, and your dinner is ready. That’s a good thing.
  3. You get to come home from work and have something hot and ready to eat. Who wants to cook after working all day? Sometimes you’re just too tired to even think, let alone gear up for some culinary craftiness.
  4. The smell. On one super busy day, I totally forgot that I had dumped meat, veggies, seasonings and chicken broth into the crock pot that morning. I was immediately reminded about it five hours later when I opened the front door and whiffed that welcoming aroma. What is that wonderful smell? Oh yeah. That’s the dinner I prepared ahead of time and now I get to eat!
  5. The whole meal is contained in one pot, so the clean up is super easy. I usually just soak my pot overnight and then wash it out in the morning. Whatever happened to be stuck on the sides or bottom comes off easily. No biggie.
  6. If you’re lazy or just plain tired because your body is using all of its energy to digest that delicious crock pot goodness, you don’t have to dig for Tupperware to refrigerate the leftovers. Just take the crock pot and put it in the fridge. Easy peasy.
  7. Lasagna. Best. Lasagna. Ever. I never thought it could be made in the crock pot until I tried it a couple of months ago. I saw it here:
  8. In the summertime, you can make a hot meal without heating  up the entire kitchen. There’s nothing worse than cooking on a 90 degree day when the air-conditioning is working at its maximum and you make its job even harder by turning on the oven to cook. Soon, the kitchen is 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the house and you’re sweaty and exhausted. With the crock pot, nothing’s heating up except your food.
  9. The crock pot holds A LOT. I have teenagers coming and going all the time in my home, and a lot of them are not mine. I’m worried I might not have enough food to feed them, especially if I don’t know they’re coming for dinner. With the crock pot, you can fill it with several servings of just about anything – chili, stew, casserole, chicken a la king – and you’ll have enough for your family and those unexpected guests. Yeah, you know who you are.
  10. You can be as creative as you want. I’ve thrown in soup, ketchup, salad dressing, shredded cheese, spinach, croutons, frozen peas, and whatever is left in my pantry. It seems that as long as you follow some kind of recipe – loosely, of course – and your ratios of liquid are correct, you can create just about anything in a crock pot. Some of my favorite crock pot recipes are ones I invented using dumped in leftovers.

The day my husband bought me my crock pot, he said, “You’re going to appreciate having this.” Instead, I was worried about how much he had spent on it, and wondered where I’d find room to store it. Big and bulky as this bad boy may be, it’s totally worth giving it prime real estate in the pantry.

The Swing, Then and Now

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of moving to West Dundee. We had a horse nearby and I was friends with the stable owner’s daughter who lived right smack in the center of downtown, facing Grafelman Park. I remember hot summers at the playground there, back when it was called Tower Park. I recall a slide, a water tower, and dragging my feet through gravel to stop the swing. That swing just felt like home.

Years later, I’d cover board meetings as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Every Monday night for four years, I’d drive to the old West Dundee village hall building with its creaky wooden stairs and listen to how the people in this small town ran it. No vehicle stickers? No garbage fees? Protecting open space? I loved it all the more.

Sometimes, I’d get to the meeting early, and drive around looking at the historic houses. The neighborhood that appealed to me most was Old Town. Every Monday night, I’d drive home from the meeting but I’d get this odd feeling that I was going the opposite direction of home. That all made sense when I moved here thirteen and a half years ago. I now live in Old Town.

I have an old house on a quiet, dead-end street near a gorgeous park with a gazebo. From my second story porch, I have a view of families canoeing and small fishing boats motoring by. Every morning I can watch the sun reach its rays over 100-year-old trees and reflect off the Fox River’s peaceful flow. But what makes this house special is the family who lives (or lived) next door to me, a family that just moved away yesterday.

The Ottingers made it clear they were going to take care of us even before we met them. We arrived in late November. I remember trudging through leaves to get to the front door. I made a mental note to sweep once I got some cleaning done, but when I went out to do that, Nancy Ottinger had already taken care of it.

Over the years, Jack Ottinger has fixed countless things for us20160626_124310, helped us install a screen door, loaned us tools, gave us advice, and filled our bike tires with air in the springtime. We’ve enjoyed wine coolers on their deck where they have a wooden swing. I mentioned that I loved the swing, and from then on, I had “swinging rights.” Whenever they were away on vacation, I’d take advantage of that.

Nancy was a combination of night watchman and mother hen. She’d call us to let us know that we left our garage door open, alert us about a nearby skunk, or any other potential harm on our street. She’d give us eggs, lettuce, butter, whatever you needed in a pinch. She mowed our lawn three times when my husband had shoulder surgery.

When they started packing, I was the recipient of many items because the Ottingers are givers. We have some of their furniture, vases, food and firewood. They won’t take money for things and I’ve learned to stop offering because they find it offensive.

Yesterday, a young couple moved into a house that was loved and cared for by the Ottingers for over 30 years. It was odd to see these strangers in their house, but change as we know is constant, just like the flow of the Fox River. It is no longer the Ottingers’ house, but as I looked over, I saw Nancy on the deck. She was, no doubt, giving instructions about the house to the new occupants. I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, but I offered a final wave from my driveway and thought, “That’s just like Nancy to take care of the new owners.”

I’ll miss summer evenings listening to stories about Jack and Nancy when they were in high school, fun times with their friends, old cars, and pranks. As I’d listen, I’d swing on that beautiful wooden swing Jack made. We took a picture of the four of us – Jack, Nancy, my husband Tom and I – in front of the swing the day we said our goodbyes. Something about that swing just felt like home.





Left to Tell – Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

When Immaculeé Ilibagiza was born, her parents selected the perfect surname. “In Rwanda, every family member has a different last name,” she writes in her book, Left to Tell – Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  “Parents give each child a unique surname at birth, one that reflects the feelings of the mother or father at the moment they first lay eyes on their new baby.” (Left to Tell, pg. 5)

Translated, Ilibagiza means “shining and beautiful in body and soul.” No truer words could describe this courageous female author who is a survivor of the 1994 genocide that took one million lives in 100 days in an unspeakably horrifilefttotellc war between Rwandan tribes.

Ilibagiza never knew violence, growing up in a loving home with educated parents who regularly helped out the less fortunate. She didn’t even know she was part of a tribe until a Hutu extremist teacher called for an “ethnic role call” in school and her parents revealed to her that she was a Tutsi. Although her identity thus far had been neatly wrapped up in her Catholic faith, education, evening prayers, and family’s love, Ilibagiza suffered the unfortunate baptism into the violence and divide that unwrapped and exposed her. It shut down a country and forever changed its landscape.

Instead of letting hatred and evil take hold of her own heart, Ilibagiza uses her experience to strengthen her relationship with God and “move mountains.” Amidst the killers chanting “Kill the cockroaches!” the swinging machetes that led to piles of rotting corpses, the loss of her family, the betrayal of her Hutu friends, boyfriend and others, she resolves to sharpen her focus on the one and only relationship she can trust – one with God.

A truly gripping page-turner, this woman’s against-all-odds survival from the killers of the Hutu tribe covers moment-to-moment accounts of near death experiences, while Ilibagiza and seven other Tutsis hid in a tiny bathroom for three months and lived, despite circumstances that claimed the lives of nearly everyone in their village. It’s proof to any reasonably thinking person that God does exist.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book goes to the LEFT TO TELL Charitable Fund, which helps Africa’s orphaned children.


The Nocturne Played On

I dropped off my daughter at work this morning, and on my way back found myself wandering into an estate sale. I’m a sucker for these things because you get to enter into a home and discover something about the person and his or her life. It is unknown what you’ll find there. You could stumble upon antique china or a priceless piece of art, carnival glass, or something precious. Even if I don’t see anything I like, sometimes I purchase something in honor of the person who just died. It’s a way of keeping that person alive.

So I entered the home on an exceptionally cold day for spring. Some kind of  icky mix of rain/sleet was coming down, but the moment I stepped in, I felt a warm, inviting peace about the place. This was where an old woman had lived, evidenced by the 1940s wedding gown gently spread out on a living room couch and on sale for $25. Nearby, I spied a music box in the shape of a grand piano with a tiny matching bench. I could not help but wind it up to see what song it would play. It was one of my favorites – Chopin’s Nocturne op. 9 no. 2 – and as it played the tune I thought about whether she was a music lover and who might have given this gift to her. Maybe she bought it for herself.

I stepped into her bedroom, feeling guilty for being in such a private space, one reserved for her sleeping and waking, her husband’s sleeping and waking. Her clothes hung lifeless in the closet, her mattress was stripped of its warmth and forced to wear a cheap price tag. Dressers found themselves with the same fate. And the carpeting, once graced by bare gentle footprints, was now covered with paper for wet shoes to trample on. I was an invader.

I moved through other rooms and looked at other things. A set of dishes spoke of beautifully cooked meals in a dining room now cluttered with every kitchenware item robbed from the cupboards rendered jobless. The couches and lift chairs, a matching his and her set in the family room, had no one to seat. One sofa, however, became the proud holder of an assortment of carefully embroidered dresser scarves, the kind I imagined that small, wrinkled fingers painstakingly sewed for hours. They were two bucks each. What was this woman’s name? What was her life like?

After visiting all of the rooms, I felt that odd compulsion to buy something before leaving. After all, I had touched so many of this woman’s personal belongings. I needed to pay tribute to the memory of this stranger, so I selected a 50 cent garlic press, decades old. It’s the kind that’s made of metal and will never break, even if you tried.

As I made my way toward the cashier and completed the transaction, another customer came in the door. He was about to discover a bit about this woman too. I exited through a creaky screen door which no doubt had opened and closed for many visitors over the years – children, grandchildren, great grandchildren – and now it opened for strangers. I walked down the driveway, squinting from the sleet, pondering life and death, and hearing in the distance the tiny music box as the nocturne played on.

Life Lessons from Trees

Welcome to The Nature Blog!

This is the first of many, I hope, blogs about lessons from nature. I’m constantly observing the details when I’m outside. A flower’s stamen, mossy bark on an aged tree, or patterns on the river made by wind are all fascinating to me. I often find some lesson in nature just by watching nature and how it behaves. So I figured why not talk (or blog) about what I see and what I can learn from it?

For this first post, I’d like to talk about trees since they’re my favorite. Trees have been the subject of many poems I’ve penned over the years. One poem, in particular, was written for my friend and neighbor, Bill Schumacher, who died of cancer a few years ago. Bill was an arborist who trimmed trees and bushes all around the neighborhood. He called himself a tree surgeon and lover of nature. Oftentimes, Bill would trim a tree and then sit underneath it to just enjoy it. He was one of those rare individuals who took time out to really look at things.

When he first told me he was dying from cancer, I could scarcely believe it. But the look in his face told me it was true. And there was not going to be any treatment. He was too far gone.

To cheer him up, I wrote the following poem. It was something he truly cherished, according to his wife, Patty. And he touched my heart by asking her to include it in his memorial service program. I was asked later to read it in front of a group of people who were dedicating a tree in his honor. I absolutely HATE public speaking, so that tells you how much I loved Bill.

I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I enjoyed writing and dedicating it to my favorite free-spirited tree surgeon, Bill Schumacher.

Life Lessons from Trees

Sometimes, life’s most poignant lessons can be learned from quietly observing a tree.

After all, people and trees have a lot in common.

No matter what season, keep your feet firmly planted.

Grow in all directions possible, but always keep yourself pointed toward God.

The most drastic changes are often the most beautiful.

It’s okay to bend or even break when life sends a storm.

Calm comes after suffering through it.

Give to others the protection they may need, and all the beauty you can possibly display.

Love unconditionally, and shelter those who have no home.

Wait patiently, though you may feel dormant. And when it’s time to let go, freely let go.

Because like a great tree, we leave behind many saplings. They, too, will grow.

And with each long-awaited spring, there is the promise of hope and new life.

©2011 Stefanie Dell’Aringa




Creativity aids healing: AIM program gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the art of nursing’

Originally published on

Artist Mary Lisa Kitakis-Spano works with a Shands Hospital patient as part of the Artists in Residence program.

Artist Mary Lisa Kitakis-Spano works with a Shands Hospital patient as part of the Artists in Residence program.
(Photos courtesy of the University of Florida)

What once was a sterile, white ceiling along a bone marrow unit corridor at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., is now colorful and meaningful. It was transformed after an artist pulled down the ceiling tiles and encouraged patients and nurses to use them as blank canvases for unique works of art. Patients who return for follow-up care can visit their ceiling tiles and remember how far they’ve come in healing; for nurses they serve as a permanent reminder of the lives they have touched.

The ceiling tile project was part of a collaborative program between Shands and the UF Center for Arts in Medicine in which artists engage patients throughout the hospital in meaningful projects with nurses’ support. The benefits of this were noted in an Oct. 20 Parade magazine article that emphasized how crafting is good for the body and mind.

Helen Welsh, RN
Welsh, who is considered an AIM pioneer, invited the first artist onto her bone marrow transplant unit in 1991. “I really believe in this, and I worked with my staff to get them on board,” Welsh said. “As a result, when the nurses support it and the team supports it, it’s much easier to have the program become successful.”

Tapping their creative side inspires and benefits patients and staff at UF Health Shands Hospital, say nurses and artists involved in the Artists in Residence program. Helen Welsh, RN, MSN, nurse manager, 8 East/adult oncology, collaborates with artists on choosing projects for patients based on factors such as patient mobility. She also speaks at an annual AIM summer intensive, a comprehensive training program for artists, caregivers, students, educators and others who wish to explore the roles of the arts in healthcare settings.

Helen Currier, RN

A Professional Research Consultants survey showed that for eight years, Welsh’s unit received the five-star excellence award for staff satisfaction. An art lover, she connected with artisans such as artist Mary Lisa Kitakis-Spano. Kitakis-Spano, who began as a volunteer, is now coordinator of the program. “She’s done incredible work here at Shands,” Welsh said. Kitakis-Spano is one of 15 artists-in-residence.

Although they’re not nurses, the artists-in-residence at Shand sfile clinical reports to assess how the arts are helping patients. One report from musician-in-residence Ricky Kendal revealed after he played songs for an 89-year-old ED patient her blood pressure dropped from 164/95 to 113/94.

“We’ve had really outstanding professional musicians doing incredible services,” said UF Center for Arts in Medicine director Jill Sonke.

A patient creates a work of art at Shands.

Another AIM program for nurses was piloted last year at Shands. The CoreCARE program addresses stress among oncology nurses through yoga, breath awareness, resiliency practices and guided relaxation, among other techniques.

Nurses also have leadership roles in making the AIM program successful. Shands’ administrative director of nursing innovation Ginger Pesata, RN, DNP, ARNP, NEA-BC, CTTS, FNAP, conducted AIM research with Sonke to measure the positive affects of art on patients and staff. Nurses polled as part of the research project observed a reduced need for pain medication among patients practicing arts.

About half of the nation’s hospitals have some type of AIM program, Sonke said, and it’s a growing field. “What we see every day is that the arts provide relaxation, connection, enjoyment and distraction,” Sonke said. “All of those things are huge gifts when you’re experiencing a healthcare crisis.”

Seven nurses are enrolled in a UF AIM online graduate certificate program, which equips nurses to start or run AIM programs in hospitals and communities; helps professional artists learn to work with patients; and assists caregivers in enhancing quality of care.

A proposed AIM master of arts program is awaiting approval with more than 100 nurses on a waiting list, Sonke said. One of those nurses is Helen Currier, RN, BSN, CNN, CENP, a nursing director and an AIM graduate certificate student and self-taught arts and health practitioner at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Currier pioneered a visual arts program at Texas Children’s and is vice president of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health. The knowledge she’s gaining from the Center for AIM, she said, “is really going to help us create a program that is systemwide, one that’s sustainable for every patient. As a nurse, there is much opportunity to not only integrate the arts into nursing practice but also to lead AIM efforts.”

California Action Coalition website live, emphasizes community involvement

The California Action Coalition, formed in October 2010, has launched its official website,, to educate and expand its 1,000-member group of nurses and healthcare workers striving to meet the Institute of Medicine’s “Future of Nursing” report standards.

Under the direction of Mary Dickow, DPA, who serves as CAC state director, the CAC has eight work groups established to focus on the IOM’s eight recommendations.
“The great feature is that wherever you are, you can just go ahead and log in as a member,” Dickow said.

A “get involved” form automatically logs in visitors to the site. “Right now, the site is pretty public. We’re encouraging people to get our information and go into the resources tab and look at what we have to offer.”

Under the events tab, users can click on an event and automatically RSVP online. That information goes into a database. “We know exactly who’s coming to our events,” Dickow said. Through the website, Dickow plans to update members on CAC work.

Members and interested parties can watch a featured testimonial video, get the latest news, and read about upcoming events such as the speaker’s bureau training sessions, regional town hall events, leadership council meetings and national updates. Dickow’s personal welcome on the site invites members to submit high quality (300 dpi) photos of California nurses at work. Information on the CAC’s executive committee, regional champions, workgroup leaders and partners also is organized on the site. One of the best features of the site, Dickow said, may be the tools and resources tab, where downloadable files are available to help nurses and other healthcare workers communicate important messages. One example is a how-to on effective Powerpoint presentations.

Dickow said she is willing to assist other states’ action coalitions with building their own websites.

“I would encourage anyone to ask us how it was done, and we can give them advice on moving a website forward for their own action coalitions.”

Stefanie Dell’Aringa is a member of the editorial team at

I-CARE posters at VA Long Beach support quality care for veterans

As patients, families and staff come and go through an entrance at VA Long Beach (Calif.) Medical Center, they’re greeted by a large poster loaded with signatures. It’s one of two posters symbolizing nurses’ ongoing commitment to the I-CARE program, a nationally implemented push to maintain core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence.

Many of VA Long Beach’s nurses, along with physicians and other staff members signed the poster, which hangs on the wall of a major access point for staff and patients.

In addition to the signed poster, about 20 nurses at the hospital created another poster that highlighted their personal commitment to the program. They also watched an I-CARE video and held discussions about what it means to adhere to the program’s values.

“On the [nurses[‘]] poster, they wrote how they individually committed to I-CARE, to VA values and how they provide care to our veterans,” said Isabel M. Duff, RN, MS, director of VA Long Beach. “They personalized what their commitment was.”

Developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the national rollout of unifying values applies to all three VA arms: veterans health administration, benefits administration and cemeteries. All of the organizations stand on this common foundation of shared principles to guide and influence VA workforce behaviors and decisions affecting veterans, their families and beneficiaries.

“We’ve all had the values identified for each of our programs,” Duff said. “This was the first set of unifying values for all of VA. This is the first time we have all committed to these values, the same set of values and the definition for those values.”

As a show of support for the I-CARE program, nurses, physicians and staff contributed signatures to a poster that hangs prominently in a hospital entryway at VA Long Beach Healthcare System.

Duff said nurses at VA Long Beach developed a plan as a leadership of how they were going to roll out their commitment.

“Our nursing leadership really took the commitment to demonstrating the I-CARE values to heart and worked directly with their frontline nursing staff to implement means of showing their commitment and putting out visible markers of their demonstration of I-CARE and what it meant to the nursing staff,” she said.

The poster hanging in the main entryway provides a visual reminder of the I-CARE values, prompting conversations among patients and their loved ones, and serving as a encouragement to staff.

“A lot of people will stop and look at the poster, read or ask questions about the I-CARE poster,” Duff said. “As I walk the hallways, people will come up to me with examples of how they’re advancing I-CARE values.”

Stefanie Dell’Aringa is a member of the editorial team at

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