Samaritan is committed to cardiac care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every five deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease. That’s nearly 700,000 lives lost annually to a disease that continues to be the leading cause of death among men and women.

It’s an issue that’s not going away—but one we can raise awareness of and improve access and treatment for every year.

That’s why, before the start of February’s American Heart Month, Samaritan announced the recent addition of cardiology services under the Samaritan umbrella. Formerly known as Cardiology Associates of Northern New York, the newly named Samaritan Cardiology will operate within its same location to provide the best in cardiac care for those concerned about their heart health.

And partnering with Dr. James Willis, physician assistant Kate Symenow and their wonderful staff (all formerly of Cardiology Associates), patients can receive care they can trust—and depend on.

Dr. James Willis, MD, FACC
Kate Simenow, PA-C, MPAS

“This new partnership improves a valuable asset for our community,” says Tom Carman, president and CEO of Samaritan Medical Center. “Working together will allow us to do big things and provide services where they’re very much needed.”

“After considering many partners, Samaritan was selected as they are as committed to this community as I am,” Dr. Willis says. “The transition has gone smoothly, and it is evident to me that they want this to be successful.”

From preventative care to consultations, clinical services, testing and more, our cardiologists can work with patients at every stage of their cardiac needs. Through this work, diagnosis, and treatment of such conditions as coronary artery disease, hypertension, angina, and various valvular disorders are possible, and can guide these patients to more heart-healthy days ahead.

Partnering for the community

Keeping cardiology services in the north country is key to sustaining access to care, but Samaritan is also committed to engagement, education, and wares of the heart health, most notably with the local American Heart Association.

For decades Samaritan has been a partner with the local Heart Walk and hundreds of Samaritan Caregivers raising funds for the cause over the years. 

Samaritan also serves as a training center for healthcare professionals based on American Heart Association course guidelines including Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support. 

“Cardiac care can’t wait, hence why we are humbled to bring Samaritan Cardiology into the system, support local outreach, and train our team and the community on how to help someone in cardiac arrest,” says Carman. “There is no question how important all of these pieces are to a heart healthy community.”      

To learn more about Samaritan’s cardiology services, visit samaritanhealth.com/cardio

To learn more about our American Heart Association courses, visit samaritanhealth.com/aha

To learn more about the local American Heart Association Heart Walk: www2.heart.org

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January 2024 OWL Award Recipients

Watertown, NY – Samaritan Keep Home and Samaritan Summit Village are pleased to announce the OWL award recipients for January 2024, the first recipients of this new award. The outstanding workers in long term care (OWL) award recognizes exemplary staff who support the residents, their families, and the caregivers at our long term care facilities.

Diana Sharpe, fifth floor Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at the Keep Home, and Niah Perez, first floor skilled nursing unit clerk, at Summit Village, were nominated, and selected as winners by a committee.

A co-worker nominated Sharpe and an excerpt from the January OWL award nomination, read:

“Diana goes above and beyond for all our residents. She takes pride in the care she gives. She is so genuine and kind, not only towards our residents and their family members, but to our staff members as well. She orients our new CNAs and surpasses all expectations. She is one of the reasons why SKH has value to it.”

A director of nursing nominated Perez and an excerpt the January OWL award nomination, read:

“Niah’s main priority is residents overall care and experience. Her attention to detail is outstanding. Anytime you ask Niah for anything her answer is ‘I will get that done.’ She has a positive uplifting attitude that our residents love.”

For being recognized, the OWL recipients receive a certificate, special parking spot for a month, an owl pin, special banner recognition, badge buddy, and various treats.

The OWL award will continue to be presented at each Samaritan long term care facility throughout the year, and residents, families, or colleagues can submit nominations at any time. To nominate or learn more about the OWL award, visit www.samaritanhealth.com/daisy-bee.

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About Samaritan Keep Home

The Samaritan Keep Home is a 272-bed long term care facility connected to the Samaritan Medical Center campus in Watertown. This residential care facility provides a full range of skilled nursing assistance, rehabilitative therapies, and social and recreational activities. Our mission is to provide an atmosphere that allows our residents to thrive and remain socially active in all aspects of their lives.

About Samaritan Summit Village

At Samaritan Summit Village – Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing facilities – our team is committed to providing sophisticated senior living. Whether we’re assisting with daily chores or planning exciting group activities, we’re here to help make living easier, at a reasonable cost. The services needed by residents may vary widely, but the goal of our care is always the same: helping seniors to live exceptionally. With its amazing views, Samaritan Summitt Village overlooks Watertown, NY, and offers 120 assisted living beds, and 168 nursing home beds.

About The OWL Award

The owl is symbolic of intuition, protection, and wisdom. At Samaritan, we are all caregivers, including those who have committed to showing extraordinary compassionate care as a long term caregiver. We need each other to care for our community.

The OWL Award (Outstanding Workers in Long Term Care) was established in December 2023 and is awarded to a caregiver who has given their time and talent to the healthcare system and to our residents. The recipients have repeatedly gone above and beyond in their role to help our staff, and residents, to make our community thrive. They exemplify the HEART Values and take their role as a Samaritan Caregiver with pride.

The OWL Award complements our existing DAISY and BEE Awards for staff, and HIVE award for volunteers. Together we recognize the amazing caregivers of the Samaritan Health System and the culture we embrace.

Samaritan Adds Cardiology Practice to Its Network

Samaritan is pleased to announce the recent addition of cardiology services under the Samaritan Medical Practice umbrella.  Samaritan Cardiology, formerly Cardiology Associates of Northern New York, will remain at its current location with the same providers, Dr. James Willis and Physician Assistant Kate Symenow. There will be very little change for current patients as the physical location, phone number and wonderful staff have not changed.

Dr. Willis, founder of Cardiology Associates, has been practicing in the region for 38 years and is committed to making sure the practice continues on as he looks forward to retirement. Samaritan and Dr. Willis came together to ensure this continuum of care will occur, as this partnership accounts for succession planning and physician recruitment.  Recruitment for new cardiology specialists is underway.

“I have built this practice and care deeply for my patients, so it is my number one concern that we remain in operation,” said Dr. Willis.  “After considering many partners, Samaritan was selected as they are as committed to this community as I am. The transition has gone smoothly, and it is evident to me that they want this to be successful.”

“We were not actively seeking this new partnership, but it is the right thing to do to keep this service in the community where it is very much needed,” explained Tom Carman, president and CEO of Samaritan Medical Center. “We have begun to recruit more cardiology providers to help serve the community, as there is a need and currently a long wait time for new patients.”

Samaritan has not operated an outpatient cardiology practice prior to this partnership, but has worked with local private physicians to ensure that cardiology services were available to hospital patients through on-call services in the emergency department within the scope of hospital privileges. 

Current patients of Cardiology Associates will notice a change in billing, as Samaritan will assume this process. In addition, echocardiograms (echo) once offered in the cardiology office will now be performed at the Samaritan Health and Wellness Plaza, 1575 Washington St., as part of the imaging and lab services.  This also means that existing Samaritan patients can have their echo done at this outpatient clinic with a provider order. 

Samaritan Cardiology is located at 19436 Howell Drive, Suite A in Watertown and can be reached at 315-786-2000.

Samaritan Medical Center President/CEO Thomas H. Carman Elected Board Chair of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS)

Samaritan Health President and CEO Thomas H. Carman portrait.

WATERTOWN, NY – Samaritan is proud to announce that Thomas H. Carman, president and CEO, has been elected as the 2024 board of trustees chair for the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS). Carman’s one-year term began on January 1, 2024.  This is a volunteer board position, which compliments his role as Samaritan’s CEO.

“As a CEO in a New York State rural community, I look forward to being the chairman of the HANYS board and bringing forward the issues and advocacy efforts that will encompass the entire state, with a greater understanding of what rural hospitals face,” Carman said. “I think my experience and perspective of what I have learned over my 40+ year career in healthcare will be beneficial to many, and I look forward to leading this board as we continue to navigate the challenges of healthcare in New York State.”

Thomas H. Carman
President & CEO
Samaritan Medical Center

Carman has served as Samaritan’s President and CEO since 2004. Prior to joining Samaritan, Carman was with Cortland Regional Medical Center from 1997 to 2004.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and a Master’s degree in business administration from Syracuse University. 

In addition to serving as HANYS 2024 board chair, Carman holds leadership roles with Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, Vice Chair; Advocate Drum/Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, Past Chair; North Country Initiative, board member; Healthcare Partners of the North County, board member; Iroquois Healthcare Association, past chair; Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, board member; and Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

About HANYS

The Healthcare Association of New York State is New York’s statewide hospital and continuing care association, representing nonprofit and public hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and other healthcare organizations. HANYS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the health of individuals and communities by providing leadership, representation and service to healthcare providers and systems across the entire continuum of care.

Samaritan Health (All Locations) to Require Facemasks as of January 19, 2024

WATERTOWN, NY – There is an uptick in COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses throughout the state. Following a recommendation by the New York State Department of Health, all Samaritan Health locations will now require facemasks in all patient care areas and public spaces within Samaritan facilities. 

This new designation of masks-required impacts Samaritan’s outpatient locations including specialty clinics, family health centers or lab and imaging locations. The Medical Center, Walker Center for Cancer Care, Emergency Department, and our long term care facilities remain masked, too.

Thank you for your patience as we try to minimize the spread of COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses and keep our patients, residents, visitors, and staff protected.

We will reevaluate the need for masking as positivity decreases in our community. Any further updates to this change will be added to samaritanhealth.com/news.

At Samaritan, making a difference is the job

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, individuals are now changing jobs — or more appropriately, careers and industries — more than ever before.

Among their top reasons for switching are pursuit of a more suitable work-life balance; scheduling to better accommodate a modern world; and most importantly, the need to be part of a positive workplace culture where they feel they’re making a difference in people’s lives.

Thankfully, those at Samaritan understand this impact and appreciate the chance to be a significant part of people’s lives, every day.

“Samaritan was originally founded as a place to care for our neighbors,” says Tom Carman, president and CEO of Samaritan. “Nearly 150 years later, caring is at the heart of everything we do. Our staff feel this, and it makes work a welcoming and rewarding experience for all of us.”

Nestled within the natural beauty of Northern New York, Samaritan offers dedicated candidates rewarding career opportunities, excellent benefits and professional development, and the ability to make a real difference in healthcare throughout our surrounding communities.

Vicky Steen, a 50-year employee of the Samaritan Keep Home, said, “My favorite part of my job is that I met so many amazing staff members I also work with an awesome group of girls within my department I love to put smiles upon the residents faces and they make my day as well. It’s just a great place to work.”

Opportunities across different departments

No matter the position—from registered nurse to certified nursing assistants to environmental services or office support—everyone’s job is critical to the care of Samaritan’s patients and residents. Bound by a common set of values known as HEART (honest, empathetic, accountable, respectful, and trustworthy) values employees are dedicated, enthusiastic and truly care about making a difference—and are surrounded by others who feel the exact same way. This common focus helps to create a great place to work and practice. Our patients and residents needs drive every decision.

Candice Matthews, a 19-year employee of Samaritan Medical Center, said, “What I love about my job is everything. I love interacting with patients. I love interacting with staff. I love seeing new things and every day you learn something new or meet someone new.”

Together, they’re supported by an organization whose ongoing strategic planning drives Samaritan forward, sets the tone for future growth and development, and offers stable, market rate paying jobs with guaranteed hours —all while providing a high quality of care for the community.

“We’re looking for employees who not only want to contribute to Samaritan’s growth, but grow with us,” says Cynthia Cassell, nursing recruiter for Samaritan. “This is a place of collaboration, driven by a team togetherness that translates across all departments. People love to be a part of this, even in the bustling world of healthcare.”

Supported by superior benefits

Samaritan and its affiliates offer a robust and competitive benefits package to its employees. These packages are the finest among Northern New York businesses; and with their combination of sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement, comprehensive health insurance, retirement support, paid time off (PTO) and community discount programs, each are a clear reflection of how much Samaritan cares about its employees, their health and their families.

“Each benefits package was developed with our employees in mind and how best to support them both inside and outside of work,” says Chris Rowe, executive director of human resources at Samaritan. “Our caregivers are what make our care exceptional, and their well-being means everything.”

Benefits available to employees at Samaritan include:

  • Medical, dental, vision and life insurance
  • Short-term and long-term disability
  • 401(k) retirement benefit + employer match
  • RN, LPN, tech retirement
  • Long-term sick time
  • Employee fitness rebate
  • Quit for Life smoking cessation
  • Aflac cancer coverage
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Select Loan forgiveness
  • QuickCharge (payroll deduction for on campus purchasing)

Encouraged to develop

Samaritan is proud to invest in the future of its employees by providing financial assistance and professional guidance to individuals interested in enhancing job knowledge or developing skills that foster growth in healthcare careers.

“One of the best ways we can support our employees is by encouraging their development,” says Rowe. “The more they can grow in their careers, the more they can accomplish for themselves, their families and our entire community. There are countless stories of employees that started in dietary and are now RNs and other roles.  We helped them achieve their career goals.”

Some of the ways Samaritan helps its employees develop—and make an even bigger difference—include the following:

  • Tuition assistance or reimbursement – Some employees are eligible for tuition assistance or reimbursement. There are various requirements and each case may differ. Potential employees or current employees are encouraged to contact Human Resources to see if there are options available to them.
  • Excellence through Collaboration Education and Leadership EXCEL Program – This program is designed to cultivate promising leaders within Samaritan who create and promote an engaged workforce and a culture of excellence; and focuses on such leadership competencies as delegating responsibility, communicating with impact, and building organizational talent. Upon completion, learning to leading the Samaritan Way will enable leaders to learn practical leadership skills; provide opportunities for personal and professional growth and development; and much more.

Interested in joining our Samaritan team? If so, learn about career opportunities at  https://samaritanhealth.com/careers/careers-education/ or call (315) 779-5236.

Samaritan Receives Jefferson County Nonprofit COVID Recovery Grant

Watertown, NY – In October, Samaritan Medical Center received an award notification for $150,000 from the Jefferson County Nonprofit COVID Recovery Program stewarded by the Northern New York Community Foundation.  The program was made possible through $1 million in funding that county officials have allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help nonprofits recover and respond to the negative impacts resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

This grant aims to support organizations heavily impacted by the pandemic’s repercussions on local nonprofits. Samaritan’s expenditure on contractors soared to historic spending levels from 2019 to 2022, and the award significantly boosts Samaritan’s efforts to recoup losses from the rise in traveling nurse contracts executed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the recovery funds, Samaritan will invest in nursing scholarship programs, and will address and alleviate the staffing crisis by hiring a clinical educator, and nurse recruiter. Collaborations with local partners are also in the works, intending to establish growth pathways in local healthcare to increase recruitment and retention efforts. These strategies not only aim to reduce the hospital’s reliance on high-cost contracted travelers but also ensure that the North Country community continues to receive quality healthcare without disruptions.

Samaritan extends its sincere thanks to both our Jefferson County governing officials and to the Northern New York Community Foundation for its role in stewarding this vital federal grant funding. Samaritan looks forward to sharing with the community the positive effects this grant funding will have on the Samaritan Health System and overall care for the community.

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Early Screenings and Advanced Procedures Lead Samaritan’s Lung Care

According to the American Cancer Society, more people die of lung cancer per year than those from breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. 

Concerning diagnoses, final estimates for new lung cancer cases in the U.S. hover around 234K by the end of 2023, but note: there is good news with these numbers. Over the past five years, annual case counts have decreased. This means individuals are staying away from things that negatively affect their lung care and are pursuing ways to stay healthy—and breathe a little easier.  

At Samaritan, our team of board-certified pulmonologists offers comprehensive pulmonary care to provide the best prevention, detection, treatment, and rehabilitation services for patients throughout our area of New York State.  

“We’re very proud of lung care services consistently ranked as the best in the region,” says Dr. Aaliya Burza, specializing in Pulmonology and Critical Care. “Our wide range of care can meet a variety of different needs and, in many cases, address breathing issues before it’s too late.” 

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms of lung cancer or seeking relief from other pulmonary-associated conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, and more, Samaritan is proud to offer advanced procedures and programs that help detect and treat all issues of concern, led by credentialed pulmonologists who can care for you close to home. 

Here are some ways we do it: 

Screen early 

Early detection is a proven, successful strategy for fighting many forms of cancer. That’s why Samaritan Medical Center’s developed its Early Lung Cancer Screening Program, which offers a low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for people at high risk for lung cancer. Because lung cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, more than 85 percent of men and women diagnosed with lung cancer today are diagnosed in a late stage, after symptoms occur and when there is very little chance of cure. 

But with Samaritan’s early screening steps, everyone has a chance. 

“We encourage all patients concerned about their lung health to get screened,” says Maria Pascolini, Samaritan’s director of Radiology. “A CT scan can find 85 percent of lung cancers in their earliest, most curable stage, allowing for treatment and the possibility of eventual recovery.”  

Individuals who may benefit from the Early Lung Cancer Screening Program are current or former smokers between the ages of 55-74 and a 30-pack-a-year smoker; or over the age of 50, a 20-pack-a-year smoker, and have one other risk factor for lung cancer. 

Cutting-edge bronchoscopy treatments 

A bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to look inside your lungs’ airways (called the bronchi and bronchioles) and find the cause of a lung problem, including such things as bleeding, blockage, infection, or the existence of a tumor. 

At Samaritan, we use different types of state-of-the-art bronchoscopy treatments, depending on the needs of the patient. A technologically advanced robotic bronchoscopy can be used to view the inside of lungs, obtain tissue samples for biopsy, and, through the use of Auris Health’s Monarch™ Platform, we can typically provide an earlier and more accurate diagnosis of small and hard-to-reach nodules in the periphery of the lung. 

Samaritan is the first hospital in Central New York and the North Country to invest in this new technology, and one of only two sites in the entire state to utilize the platform. This provides the region’s patients with next-generation care for the health concerns of today. 

“It’s essential that we invest in these tools to provide the best outcomes for our patients,” says Eva Edwards, Samaritan’s director of Oncology. “This allows for early intervention, and in turn, saves more lives. 

In addition to its robotic bronchoscopy, Samaritan can also perform an electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (or ENB), which combines specialized endoscopic tools and technology with traditional bronchoscopy to provide computer-driven guidance, based on a patient’s CT scan. The tools extend much further into the lungs than standard bronchoscopes, which enables a safe way for physicians to reach more lung tissue for a more accurate diagnosis. 

Endobronchial ultrasound 

For those who have lung concerns that do not require bronchoscopy treatments, Samaritan offers other, less invasive options to help diagnose issues. An endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) uses real-time ultrasound to identify and sample small abnormalities within your lungs without having to perform surgery. The EBUS system also makes biopsies safer and more accurate than conventional methods, all while providing necessary peace of mind for Samaritan patients.  

“It’s all about pursuing the most suitable way to find a solution,” says Edwards. “Patients come here for us to care for them. We’re committed to providing care and helping each patient to enjoy a healthy life.”   

To learn more about Samaritan and its Lung Care capabilities, visit https://samaritanhealth.com/service/lung-care/.  

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Excellus BCBS Awards Hospitals $28 Million for Quality Improvements

Watertown, NY – Samaritan was among eight Utica/Rome/North Country Region hospitals awarded quality improvement payments from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield as part of their 2022 Hospital Performance Incentive Program.  

Samaritan is appreciative of the support from Excellus BCBS to ensure high quality healthcare in our community.  

The full Excellus BCBS press release can be found here: https://news.excellusbcbs.com/news/article?articleId=36710621&classPK=475619988

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Samaritan’s Pilot Emergency Nurse Residency Program sees Success with recent Graduate

Watertown, NY – On September 14, Sarah Wallace, RN, was the first to complete the Samaritan Medical Center Emergency Nurse Residency Program. 

“The main reason for my participation in the Emergency Nurse Residency Program stems from the love for emergency medicine I developed when I was a patient care assistant,” Sarah said. “The staff that is/was there helped to form my interest in Nursing and encouraged me to pursue the field. From providers to ancillary staff, I was able to learn something from someone each day that I was at work.”

In 2022, Samaritan’s nursing leadership created the Emergency Nurse Residency Program upon recognizing the dire need for front-line emergency nurses while solving the time gap of one year of experience required by New York State before a graduate nurse can work in emergency care.

Samaritan’s program offers a curriculum tailored to meet fundamental needs for well-rounded knowledge and a broad skill set of nurses who are passionate about critical care.

Picture here: Kim Smith, director of Nursing Critical Care at Samaritan, and Sarah Wallace, RN.

Sarah added, “I believe that this program is a great program to help new nurses explore emergency medicine while encompassing other departments. This aids in strengthening the community within Samaritan by having the residences go on rotations to each floor.”

New graduate nurses are navigated through Samaritan’s nursing recruitment team to the residency program, and they do not need to be licensed as a Registered Nurse before they apply.

“We are encouraged with Sarah’s graduation that we have developed a program that will help us train and retain RNs in the Emergency Department, this is our long-term goal,” said Jacqueline Dawe, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, Samaritan Medical Center. “Currently we have another seven students at various stages in the program and we look forward to accepting new nurses as they apply. We also plan to expand our nursing residency in more areas. These programs work.”

While in the program, the new graduate nurses are exposed to all the areas and departments in the hospital, from the medical/surgical floors to labor and delivery, pediatrics, and behavioral health to the daily assignments and responsibilities in the emergency department. 

Graduate nurses, or nurses who will soon graduate, are encouraged to call our nursing recruitment team at 315-779-5236. New nurses to Samaritan may be eligible for a variety of sign-on bonuses and benefits including loan and relocation assistance.

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