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Maryland-National Capital

Homecare Association


Excellence in Business Office Services

This award recognizes the exemplary contributions of business office staff, including schedulers, intake staff, billers, and other administrative professionals.

This year’s award winner is Linda Bartock, Intake Nurse at Johns Hopkins Care at Home. Linda
has consistently demonstrated exemplary contributions to her organization’s business office services, and she exceeds expectations in every aspect of her role. She embodies the qualities of a true professional - she is thorough, detail-oriented, and possesses an innate ability to streamline processes effectively. Linda’s commitment to excellence is evident in her meticulous attention to detail, ensuring that all aspects of the intake process are handled with precision and accuracy.

As a working supervisor, she not only oversees the RN intake team, but also serves as an intake nurse when needed. Her willingness to roll up her sleeves and pitch in wherever necessary is a testament to her commitment to the mission and the well-being of patients and families.

One of Linda’s standout qualities is that she is a teacher at heart. Despite the time-consuming nature of her responsibilities, she willingly invests additional time to educate and support her colleagues. Her patience and understanding make her a valuable resource to her team, consistently investing extra effort to ensure everyone has the knowledge and support they need to succeed.

In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, Linda has taken on the task of developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and processes to streamline organizational workflows. Her proactive approach has led to significant improvements in efficiency, allowing her organization to deliver exceptional service to their patients and clients. She has single-handedly aligned intake processes across two certified home health agencies that are over 50 miles apart. Her ability to manage such a complex task demonstrates her strong leadership skills and dedication to her organization's success.

Manager of the Year

Awarded to that individual who demonstrates outstanding leadership, strong management skills, and compassion in the performance of their duties.

This year’s award winner is Fran Leitner, Clinical Manager at Johns Hopkins Care at Home. She is an exceptional leader who brings an unwavering compassion to her role, which has left an indelible mark on her organization and the community they serve. Fran’s extraordinary leadership in recruitment and retention initiatives has been pivotal in upholding her organization’s high standards of care. Going beyond the call of duty, she has implemented innovative strategies to ensure that staffing needs are met. Her visionary approach to recruitment, highlighted by the creation of a successful social media advertising campaign and her hands-on involvement in the rigorous interview process, has yielded an impressive annual hiring of over 25 nurses - a testament to her unparalleled dedication!

Fran’s steadfast commitment to staff welfare and professional development is exemplified through programs such as the establishment of a comprehensive clinical lattice for career progression, as well as a supplemental benefits program for clinicians that have worked for the organization for a certain length of time (thus encouraging employee retention). These initiatives underscore her passion-driven approach to nurturing a culture of growth, empowerment, and fulfillment among her team members.

Moreover, Fran has a remarkable capacity to embrace change with optimism and creativity, which sets her apart as a true visionary in the field. Her boundless enthusiasm and innovative spirit have motivated others to embrace change. Fran's positivity and determination have not only inspired her colleagues, but have also instilled a sense of purpose and unity within her team. Beyond her managerial duties, Fran's genuine advocacy for staff well-being and her unparalleled dedication to providing exceptional care resonate deeply with all who have the privilege of working alongside her. Her compassionate leadership style fosters a nurturing and collaborative work environment where individuals are empowered to thrive and excel. Fran's recent initiative to curate a heartwarming holiday slideshow, featuring contributions from field clinicians, office staff, and leadership, further underscores her commitment to fostering camaraderie and joy within our team.

Fran epitomizes the essence of an exemplary manager, and her profound contributions have undoubtedly elevated the standard of excellence within her organization.

Therapist of the Year

Recognizes the outstanding contributions of a licensed speech language pathologist, or physical or occupational therapist or therapy assistant.

The 2024 MNCHA Therapist of the Year Award goes to occupational therapist, Rachel Schwarzschild, of Bayada Home Health Care. Rachel is the most skilled OT, with compassionate skills, knowledge, and creativity to assist clients to achieve their maximum independence. Many of her peers and nurses reach out to her for guidance and insight for difficult client situations. Rachel carries a full case load of clients in the field, providing evidence-based quality care to her clients and empowering caregivers with education. She consistently receives positive client satisfaction reports, and clients often request her services when they need OT. Rachel is also a preceptor for new OTs in Howard and Carroll Counties, and she receives exceptional feedback from her peers.

In addition to her field clinician and preceptor roles, Rachel is a star QAPI team leader, which means she volunteers to perform audits of all hospitalizations for her office. She provides exceptional insight and guidance to her colleagues regarding defensible documentation and quality of care through a thorough root cause analysis. Rachel frequently presents these findings to the entire team of clinicians during monthly staff meetings.

Nurse of the Year

Awarded to the RN or LPN with outstanding contributions to patient care and customer service.

This year’s Nurse of the Year award winner is Teresa Hiebler, RN Clinical Nurse Manager at Johns Hopkins Care at Home. As a RN Case Manager, she has served a medically-complex population of patients and provided skilled nursing care in the home for the last 5 years.

Teresa recently managed a middle-aged patient who had suffered serious injury in a motor vehicle accident. During his 1-month hospitalization, he experienced several life-threatening cardiovascular and neurologic complications which required rapid and sustained intensive medical intervention. The patient and his wife immigrated from West Africa, and they had been in the US for over 20 years. The patient was not a US citizen and did not have health insurance.

Under a Letter of Agreement from the discharging hospital, the patient was granted only 3 Skilled Nurse visits and 3 Physical Therapy visits under the home health benefit. A hospital bed was the only DME provided. This patient had significant cognitive and functional deficits, and Teresa immediately recognized that he would need more than the minimal services approved. She advocated for the approval of additional disciplines, as well as increased visits. As a result of her advocacy, the patient was approved for and received 10 OT visits, 7 PT visits, 4 SN visits, 2 SLP visits, and 1 MSW visit during his episode of care with home health! During the first week of his episode, on a weekend day off, Teresa and the Occupational Therapist sharing the case visited a large durable medical equipment loan warehouse. They obtained a ramp, detachable shower head, walker, slide board, gel overlay for his hospital bed mattress, bed side commode, shower bench, Hoyer lift, turn and position system, wheelchair, and wheelchair cushion. They took the equipment home to clean and sanitize. They then transported the equipment to the patient’s home, set up the equipment, and began teaching safe use of the equipment. 

Through family education and provision of needed equipment, this patient was able to advance to sitting upright with contact guard at the edge of the bed, sitting in the wheelchair for 4-6 hours/day in order to participate in meals and family activities, transferring with minimal assist, and he reported improved pain management. This patient would not have been able to make these physical gains without his home health team led by Teresa.

Malinowski Innovation Award

Recognizes a leader in innovating the delivery of home health services, standards of practice, and/or the patient experience.

The Malinowski Innovation Award is presented to Jessica Hall. In 2020 Jessica discovered her nursing niche when she joined the team at the Johns Hopkins Care at Home (JHCH). Jessica’s wisdom, gained from 9 years of practice in long term care, subacute rehab, medical surgical, neurology, and cardiac acute care enabled her to build a robust toolkit for leading the agency in service delivery innovations.

Jessica’s philosophy aligns with the Johns Hopkins Medicine mission: improving the health of our communities by achieving the Quadruple Aim of Healthcare - improved patient experience, better health outcomes, lower costs, and improved staff experiences. 

Jessica has collaborated with JHCH shareholders to develop and implement a preceptor resource repository, debrief preceptor experience platform, revise preceptor selection/training processes, restructure preceptee on-boarding processes, and communicate cohort recommendations and accomplishments with organization shareholders. Jessica is a remarkable advocate for preparing transdisciplinary preceptors to be fully equipped to on-board preceptees.

This innovative performance improvement (PI) process has demonstrated value in improving patient outcomes and in retaining and attracting both preceptors and preceptees. In April 2023, Jessica presented this PI process, “Cultivating Transdiscipline Preceptors: Growing a Regenerative Cohort,” at the Johns Hopkins Center for Nursing Inquiry SHINE (Showcase for Hopkins Inquiry and Nursing Excellence) conference. 

In Fall 2023, as a nursing inquiry champion dedicated to coaching others, Jessica participated in the Evidence-Based Practice Intensive jointly with Johns Hopkins Hospital and Bayview Medical Center. Here she was able to influence practice and policy change based on best evidence and encourages others to do the same. Jessica earned her Nursing Continuing Professional Development Certification through her work with this Intensive.

Jessica’s peers, support staff, and leaders describe her as attentive, inventive, compassionate, intuitive, enthusiastic, inclusive, and responsive. Jessica Hall has and continues to support all of us as we endeavor to achieve the Quadruple Aim through innovation and enlightenment.

Caregiver of the Year

Recognizes a Home Health Aide, Certified Nursing Assistant, and/or Caregiver who consistently exceeds expectations on a day-to-day basis by providing leadership, work ethic, and commitment to deliver excellent patient care.

MNCHA’s Caregiver of the Year is awarded to Gwendolyn Morris-Smith of Family & Nursing Care Select. Gwendolyn is a dedicated, kind, and generous caregiver. She is gentle, patient, and loving with every client. Gwendolyn began her caregiver career in 2003 and she has been with Family & Nursing Care since 2009. She truly shines like a diamond amongst her colleagues, as her file from the past 15 years contains countless compliments and messages, from virtually every client she has worked with, to recognize her for her outstanding skills and demeanor.

As one example of Gwendolyn’s expertise, she was once working with a client whose family lived out of state and found it very difficult to visit on a regular basis. Gwendolyn took the time to speak with the family and gain an understanding of the client’s needs and preferences in order to provide care that would put their minds at ease over being so far away from their loved one. In turn, Gwendolyn provided care that simultaneously made the client feel loved and cared for, and empowered to maintain their independence. Gwendolyn followed the family's wishes as well as the Plan of Care developed by a member of the Family & Nursing Select Nursing team. Gwendolyn's attentiveness and knowledge of the client helped her identify an emergency situation while she was caring for the client. She called for help to get them to the hospital right away to receive life-saving treatment. The client's care manager even stated that she believes Gwendolyn saved the client’s life!

It is an expectation that a caregiver arrives on time to work with a client. Doing so is a sign of the caregiver's organization, dependability, and preparation for their work. Gwendolyn exceeds this expectation by not only arriving on time, but by arriving 30 minutes prior to her scheduled start. When there is traffic or inclement weather predicted, Gwendolyn thinks ahead to make arrangements that will still allow her to arrive early. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing in-home care services to older adults presented significant challenges. Even so, a daughter of one of the clients Gwendolyn worked with during this time wrote of her, "Gwendolyn has been an amazing help during this time and I can't thank her enough for everything she had done for both my parents and especially my mother right now. COVID-19 has made this whole process challenging, and knowing Gwendolyn is there with my mom gives us all great comfort."

The following remark received from a care manager best sums up how special a caregiver Gwendolyn is. "Gwendolyn is a jewel. She so respects her clients, and I guess I can safely say, she loves them. She always treats them with dignity and care. I would like to clone her many times over."

Cindy Libby-Green Leadership Award

This award is given to that individual or agency who demonstrates outstanding leadership in the advancement of home health, private duty, or the home medical equipment industry at the local, state or national level. 

The winner of the Cindy Libby-Green Leadership Award is said to embody the servant-leader philosophy. Cindy’s goal was to develop future home health care leaders who could continue to promote evidence-based practices and continual quality improvements to deliver the safest, highest quality home care services to those in need.

Cindy Libby-Green was a very active member of MNCHA and also served on our Board of Directors. Her contributions impacted every aspect of the homecare industry. Cindy was a strong and effective advocate for homecare patients & clients, as she possessed the vision and perseverance to advance the role of homecare in the community.

The Cindy Libby-Green Leadership Award is presented to Dr. Conrad Aquino. Dr. Aquino currently serves as the Clinical Director of Home Health Services at Optimal Health Care Inc. He led this division of his organization through a challenging start-up phase. Currently he is developing a groundbreaking program aimed at reducing hospital readmissions and emergency visits for chronic and high-risk older adults. His targeted approach reflects a deep understanding of the complexities of patient care, the critical role of social determinants in achieving better health outcomes, and the need for collaborative healthcare solutions.

Dr. Aquino’s contributions extend beyond his clinical and leadership roles. He is a thought leader, author, and TedX Talk presenter who cares deeply about how we can enhance patients’ lives beyond clinical settings by helping them discover joy and purpose. His guiding philosophy, “Treating the illness is only secondary to what I do — caring for the person within the patient,” underlines his holistic approach to healthcare. Dr. Aquino shares these valuable insights and his unique blend of compassion, innovation, and leadership while speaking at national industry conferences and by steering the home healthcare industry towards a future of integrated, patient-focused, efficient, and compassionate care delivery. He is also involved in the NAHC mentoring program to offer guidance and support to emerging leaders in healthcare, as he believes that nurturing talent helps to advance the homecare industry.

Dr. Aquino’s leadership commitment, dedication to patient well-being, and his extensive contributions as an author, speaker, and mentor exemplify the spirit of the Cindy Libby-Green Leadership Award.

President’s Award for Advocacy Leadership

The winner of the President’s Award for Advocacy Leadership goes to Matthew Auman, CEO of HomeCentris Healthcare.

For the last decade, Matt has tirelessly advocated for the home health and personal care industry. During this time, he has been an active member of the MNCHA Board of Directors, where for the last several years he has led the organization's Legislative Committee, bringing a steadfast dedication to advancing regulation and legislation that benefits our industry and recognizes the value of home care within the healthcare continuum.

Matt has developed a reputation that centers on his commitment to quality. He has been a vocal champion for the appropriate classification of workers in the homecare industry, collaborating with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Matt has worked with Maryland's Department of Health and Department of Medicaid Services to ensure that regulations implemented promote quality and ensure the financial stability and success of our industry. He has taken an active role in discussions about accreditation, value-based purchasing, and the industry's staffing shortage, all with a focus on providing the best care and positively impacting the most Marylanders.

He has become an admired thought-leader in our industry. Leaders from across the industry seek his input and guidance when facing tough business decisions and challenges in their own organizations. The impact of Matt’s wise counsel can be seen across many Maryland agencies. His commitment to stewardship and advocacy has transferred to other leaders both inside and outside of HomeCentris. His mentorship has impacted many, and his contributions have benefited many more.

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