Three Staffers Celebrate 35 Years of Care at GBMC-Gilchrist

June 23, 2023, Gilchrist Staff

Three Staffers Celebrate 35 Years of Care at GBMC-Gilchrist

Paula Schaffer , Tina Maggio, and Gina Ranieri-Bender all celebrated their 35th anniversary with GBMC-Gilchrist.

In our world of rapid and relentless change, three professionals at Gilchrist’s inpatient center in Towson stand out. A lot. And that’s not a good thing. It’s a great thing.

In June 2023, Paula Schaffer and identical twins Tina Maggio and Gina Ranieri-Bender all celebrated their 35th anniversary caring for patients and their loved ones as members of the GBMC-Gilchrist organization. While they’ve certainly held different roles during their three and half decades of service, their employer and commitment have remained absolutely constant. Let’s put their remarkable longevity into a little context.

According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those born around the time of Paula, Tina, and Gina held an average of 12.4 jobs between the ages of 18 and 54. In this study, a “job” is defined as an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer. Stated another way, these three are extreme outliers.

And this is only part of their amazing story of dedication to health care in general — and hospice care in particular.

Together since college

Tina, Gina, and Paula have actually been together for more than their 35 years at GBMC-Gilchrist. The three attended the same college (what was then known as Towson State University), pursued the same degree (nursing), took the same classes, won entry into the same prestigious honor society for nursing (Sigma Theta Tau), and graduated the same year (1988). Following graduation, they then joined the same organization, GBMC.

They took somewhat different career paths during the ensuing years, but all three made their way to Gilchrist – Tina and Gina in 1996, Paula in 2008. Tina and Gina are currently clinical managers, while Paula left a clinical management position to return to her roots as a bedside nurse.

In retrospect, their ultimate professional destination looks like fate. All three advocated for compassionate hospice care well before they began working for Gilchrist.

Paula had her first direct encounter with death while interning as a high school student with an order of nuns. A sister died in her sleep, and Paula stepped up to help with the transition. “It came naturally to me,” she said.

Tina and Gina recognized the need for comfort-focused care when their grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer while they were still college students. He died in terrible pain in a hospital intensive care unit, with doctors still focused on an improbable cure. It didn’t have to be that way, they believed then – and they believe now.

“If I can help someone not have pain,” Gina said, “that’s what I want to do.”

And hospice offers even more than valuable pain management, all three agree. Hospice enables patients and their families to make the most of the time they have together. The goal is to help all involved to live every moment.

Living every moment

When asked what they find so meaningful about working in hospice, Paula, Tina, and Gina gave the same answer: building rich and enduring relationships with those in their care. In previous years, patients tended to enter hospice earlier in the life’s journey, so there was more time to develop and nurture personal bonds.

Paula, Tina, and Gina have countless stories about the special relationships they’ve developed through the years and the special steps they’ve often take to help patients and their loved ones experience joy and happiness. For example, during the recent pandemic and the resulting visitation restrictions, they took creative steps to bring people together safely. They’ve coordinated weddings along the way. And they’ve turned more than one snowstorm requiring staff to stay overnight into a party for everyone at the center.

When asked what, if anything, they would like to change about hospice, not one of them required so much as moment to formulate an answer. Their response was at the tip of their tongues – the same exact response for all three.

Pins of accomplishment gained through the years. Three Staffers Celebrate 35 Years of Care at GBMC-Gilchrist

Without question, they would like patients and their families to choose hospice earlier — if they’re ready, of course — so they could enjoy the many benefits during a longer length of stay. For instance, thoughtful hospice care is focused on giving patients and their families as much control as possible at a time when patients are losing control over fundamental elements of life, such as mobility and eating.

Patients are consulted and play a central role in the development of a care plan that involves medical and non-medical issues alike. The results can be tremendous. Their quantity of their time might not increase, but the quality usually does, they say.

The care and support that hospice staffers provide relieves family members of caregiving responsibilities and enables families to be what they were meant to be – families. “You get to be that person again,” Gina said. “You get to have that relationship again.”

What’s next?

Collectively, Paula, Gina, and Tina have more than 100 years of experience caring for patients and GBMC-Gilchrist. And they bring all of what they’ve learned, both professionally and personally, to tend patients and their families. There’s the medical component to address, of course. But there are also social, psychological, familial, and other matters that emerge. At this point, they’ve seen and done just about everything, and that’s a good thing.

It takes time to be good at this very important job, Paula said as her friends nodded in agreement.

As for retirement? Well, we’ll see.

Gina, for one, certainly doesn’t seem ready. With a personality as effervescent as bottle of just-opened champagne, she laughed: “Where else would you want to work?” Here’s hoping that there will be a later article to celebrate their 40th year on the job caring for patients and their loved ones.

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