2012 Health Care Heroes: Elizabeth A. White

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Health Care HeroesFINALIST: Non-Physician

Elizabeth A. White

Environmental Services Partner, Community Hospital East


Thousands of lives are saved in hospitals every year—it kind of goes with the territory—but usually that privilege is reserved for physicians and nursing staff. Elizabeth Ann White, an environmental services partner at Community Hospital East, isn’t a nurse or doctor, but she has proven that a willingness to help and the ability to keep a cool head during a crisis are sometimes every bit as effective as medical credentials.

White_Elizabeth_NonPhys.jpg (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

It happened one day last August. White, 40, opened a beverage for a patient so she could enjoy her meal. Then she resumed cleaning the patient’s bathroom. Moments later she heard the patient beating on the bedside table. White rushed back into the room. “I saw her face was turning blue,” White said. “I didn’t call anyone. I didn’t want to frighten her—or me. I just pushed her bedside table back, let the bed up and started the Heimlich on her. I just did it!”

White called for the on-duty nurse once she knew the patient was OK and able to talk. “Then we both started crying,” White said. “She told me I was her hero.”

The grateful patient reported the life-saving deed to White’s boss. She also called her children and asked them to come in and meet White and thank her themselves.

White shrugs off any talk that she “went above and beyond.” “I believe patient care is everybody’s job,” she said. “I’m just glad I was there and able to do what I did.” She considers herself the lucky one. “I gained a lifetime friend,” she said. We still talk to each other to this day.”

“Elizabeth exemplifies what we mean when we say everyone is a part of the health care team,” said Robin Ledyard, M.D., president of Community Hospital East.

White started working at Community East in 2000 at the suggestion of her father, Frederick, a shipping and receiving supervisor who worked at Community for 43 years. Prior to that she had worked in the hospitality industry, but she was searching for more meaningful employment. “I wanted to gain a different experience, and I’m glad that I chose Community Health Network as my place of employment,” she said.

White admires the nurses on her floor and has learned a lot from them. “They are my family while I’m at work, and we work as a team,” she said. In 2009 she began working toward her nursing degree at Ivy Tech. Soon afterward her father became ill with lung cancer and White had to put her nursing classes aside to help care for him. It’s not the first time White has experienced tragedy—she lost her mother to lung cancer and her oldest son to bone cancer.

Saving the patient’s life has also saved her. “All this has motivated me to hurry up and go back to school,” she said. It’s made me push more.” Her 15-year-old son also plans to work in the health care field. “He wants to be a pediatrician,” she said. “He wants to help sick kids.”

Meanwhile, White is continuing to live out her philosophy of life each day: Always try to help out. Always try to give.

“She meets my definition of a hero,” said Bryan Mills, president and CEO of Community Health Network.

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