For Cristine Frantz, a desire to pay it forward is what motivates her.
As a family liaison at the Emergency Department at WellSpan York Hospital, Frantz’s job is to help families while their loved ones are in the hospital.
At one time, she suffered with her own medical issues and was in and out of the hospital. She knew this took a toll on her husband and three sons.
“I saw what my family went through and I always thought if I can help a family get through what could be the hardest time of their lives, I would seize the opportunity,” Frantz said.
And, that opportunity arose two years ago, when she became part of the team at WellSpan York Hospital. As a family liaison, she advocates for the families to help them feel informed, valued and she also helps them deal with traumatic situations.
“Every patient and family that walks through that ED is treated with the utmost respect and part of my job is making sure they know they are not alone,” she said.
Frantz was recently honored as a healthcare hero by the Central Penn Business Journal. Selected in the “Health Care Specialties Hero” category, she will be honored later this month in a virtual ceremony.
Being nominated a healthcare hero: “I feel so honored to be representing WellSpan and the liaison team,” she said. “I look at everyone who works in the hospital setting as a ‘healthcare hero.’ It takes a lot of compassion and understanding to get through a day. Not only with patients and families, but with each other. It is important to let your co-workers know how important they are and how much they are appreciated for all they do.”
Highlights of your job: Not only does Frantz greet patients and their families, but she also enforces the visitation policy and deescalates situations when they arise.
“Fear is a natural response of not knowing and we are there to lessen those fears and provide comfort in any way possible,” she explained. “It is so important to let the family and patient know they are cared about and we only have their best interests at heart.”
Whether it’s holding a hand or hugging a family member, she also grieves with these families during the worst times in their lives.
“If a patient passes, we stay with the family as the doctor delivers the news,” she said. “We help them through the shock and devastation they are feeling at that point.”
She finds resources for families who may need a chaplain or help with bereavement and counseling. And, she also serves on the hospital’s trauma team.
“If a patient comes in and we have no identity or family information, it is our job to find out who they are and locate family,” she said. “There have been many times where this has occurred and contacting the family is done with the utmost discretion and compassion. When the family does arrive, we make sure communication with the physician is a top priority. It is hard not having answers and for families, a short period of time of not knowing can seem like an eternity.”
Advice for those entering your field: “You can’t take things personally. You are there to help in some very tragic situations, so stay strong and use your instincts on what is the best way to handle each situation. There is a lot of self-satisfaction just knowing you were there for someone in a time of need.”
Working during the pandemic: During the pandemic when no visitors were permitted in the hospital, Frantz often communicated by phone to provide updates to families. Patients were there alone so she often assured them that that they were in great hands.
“I am a hugger. I calm people with a hug and positive communication. I couldn’t change who I am because of COVID-19. A mother was in tears one night and I asked her if I could give her a hug. The mom said she found it so refreshing and in spite of COVID-19 to be hugged.”
Most rewarding days at work: “When I’m working with a family and at the end, they thank me and say they couldn’t have gotten through this without me.”
One particular night stands out for Frantz as she explained how she helped a man who had just lost his wife.
“To say he was devastated is putting it mildly,” she recalled. “I helped him make phone calls and I gave him time alone to try and comprehend all that happened.”
Frantz was also there when he just needed to talk.
“We talked and talked, about anything – his life, his wife and anything that brought him some peace at that time. He didn’t know how he was going to make it without her as he really had no one. One moment at a time I told him. Don’t worry about tomorrow and what that day may bring.”