CCH Legend strives to help people who can't speak for themselves

May 19, 2016

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop

At 9 years old, Mary Barks sat alone patiently in a hospital waiting room in Georgia. Her father had a brain tumor, and the family was spending as much time with him as they had. In the 70s, children were not permitted to be in hospital rooms, so Mary couldn't be with her family or say goodbye to her father while he was lucid.

But for one nurse, seeing a child alone in a waiting room was out of place. She asked Mary if she had been helped, and Mary said she was waiting for her family because she couldn't join them in the room. The nurse stepped away for a few moments, and then returned. She took Mary's hand, walked her up the back stairwell and into the room where her family was gathered. Because of this nurse's gesture, Mary was able to have some important time during his last days with her father that her four older brothers and older sister had. Moments she treasures to this day.

The nurse's act of kindness has stayed with Mary, and has shaped how she treats others to this day. Throughout her career, she's been a patient, and staff, advocate. She's worked to help people who can't speak for themselves—just as the nurse did for her in that hospital waiting room.

As the Director of Patient & Resident Experience, Mary is the lead for the team that is responsible for assisting with patient's interaction with Campbell County Health, and often takes concerns and compliments about those interactions. Mary also champions Campbell County Health's organizational culture to ensure that every employee provides excellence every day to our patients, residents, clients, customers and colleagues. She was the lead in looking into ways to improve patient satisfaction and employee engagement, and recommended the organization consult with the Studer Group.

"What I do isn't always about complaints," Mary says. "For me, it's more about helping patients, residents and staff move past a difficult time in their journey of life."

It's this approach to excellence every day that has made CCH recognize Mary with the prestigious Legend Award. For those who don't know, CCH defined a Legend as, "those people who have left a permanent impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone a legend."

Born and raised in the metro Atlanta area, Mary received her bachelors of science in Education from the University of Georgia. After college, Mary followed her passion to help people with disabilities. For eight years, she volunteered with the Georgia Special Olympics, while working full time as a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at a rehabilitation hospital for traumatic brain injuries. Then, at a leadership event in Georgia she met a cowboy from Gillette (Dan Barks) and after developing a relationship by actual letters and phone calls—she relocated to Northeastern Wyoming in 1987. When she first arrived in Gillette, she took a job with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and was later hired to work the child and adolescent unit in Behavioral Health Services at CCH in 1990. In 1994, she took her first job in Patient Experience.

"My career path just naturally led to my current role. I love to help a person navigate healthcare today, or be the voice of someone who feels they don't have a voice, or to identify an improvement we can make for the betterment of the people we serve," she says. "That's what is important to me—helping someone."

According to her team, Katie Golinvaux and Chrissy Moore, Mary is very dedicated to her role at CCH. In her award nomination form, this duo wrote: "Mary always looks at a situation to see if CCH is doing the right thing for the patients, or staff. Instead of 'handing off' patients, Mary will take the initiative to make calls and requests that are well above and beyond her duty. No matter a deadline or situation, patients are the priority—she will drop everything she is doing to help them, or advocate for them on their behalf."

Melisa Haddix, Hospice Bereavement and Social Service Coordinator, concurs. "One of the most striking qualities about Mary is her out-going personality and willingness to offer assistance to anyone who may need help," says Melisa. "When people work alongside Mary, her positive can-do attitude is infectious. She makes us want to be better employees when working with her."

According to her nomination forms, Mary has often dug into her own pockets to help patients and staff. She has helped uninsured patients pay for appointments at Clinics that may require payment upfront. She has purchased gift cards for patients who were down on their luck to help put a smile on their face. When Nutrition Services was nominated as CCH's Department Discovery for the month, Mary purchased some goodies for them that they wouldn't have to make for the team to enjoy. And she has taken the initiative to donate money or help set up a fundraiser to help raise money for employees who have endured something catastrophic and needed a helping hand.

Mary is also a member of The Beryl Institute, a professional membership group that is dedicated to improving the patient experience through collaboration and shared knowledge. Mary has served as its president and was on the board for eight years, when it was known as the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy. She was part of the team that met with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) when they first rolled out the conditions of participation for Grievances and Complaints to make the process "doable" and responsible for patients and organizations.

In her personal life, she's also an advocate for those who may not have a voice. Mary was on the CASA for the Sixth Judicial District Board for several years, and is currently serving on the YES House Board—both boards allow Mary to be an advocate on behalf of children. She also recently rejoined the Wyoming Protection & Advocacy System, Inc. (P&A) Board, which protects the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities, after already spending eight years on the board in past years. Even with all of these responsibilities, she still finds time to spend volunteering at High Plains Community Church in a variety of areas, and often adopts several children and families over the holidays.

Mary and her husband, Dan, have been married for more than 26 years and love spending time together outside—backpacking, camping, hiking and exploring, mostly in the Big Horns—with their faithful companion Jake, a 3 year old Cavapoo, a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Mary also enjoys spending as much time as possible with her most treasured blessings, her grandchildren.

Mary, you bring your best self to work every day. Your compassion knows no bounds. Thank you for your dedication, your service, and for your commitment to our organization. You have left a permanent impression at CCH. Congratulations.

Is there a CCH employee who went the extra mile or shows you extraordinary service? Give them a pat on the back by completing an Excellence Every Day card.