Natalie Blasczienski Award Winner

Congratulations, Dawn Thompson, DOR, Victoria Post Acute Care — Winner of the Natalie Blasczienski Award
Submitted by Jon Anderson, Therapy Resource, Keystone

During our Annual Therapy Leadership meeting, I had the honor and privilege to announce this year’s Natalie Blasczienski Award winner. This award, established in 2019, in essence, emulates the spirit and incredible human being of Natalie Blasczienski. Natalie was a PT and DOR at Legend Euless, Texas (now known as Westpark). She was often described as a superhero for her patients, a mentor/coach for her therapy/IDT team, and a proud momma of two young boys. Natalie’s spirit and enthusiasm was palpable, and she enriched the lives of countless seniors, through her selfless dedication to helping others.

In the summer of 2019, Natalie was diagnosed with breast cancer (she was in her early 30s). During her chemo intervention, she persevered and continued to work full time, never skipping a beat, and later that year she went into intermission. We were so excited, for we thought she had beat it, but unfortunately she had a rare reaction to the chemo treatment that resulted in severe cardiac damage, and we forever lost her physical presence in March 2019. However, her spirit is still very much alive, as Natalie made so many of us feel like family. Many of us will never forget how powerful of a presence she was; she never knew a stranger. With this award, we honor Natalie and the award winner who is nominated by their therapy team.

Through a survey nomination process, therapy teams across our affiliates shared so many countless stories about how their therapy leader was deserving. It was an incredible response, and the committee had a very difficult time determining who the winner would be. Those who nominated Dawn gave the following answers to our questions.

How has your therapy leader displayed unconditional love to your team, facility, and residents?
This therapy leader often leads with “I love you all” or “I’m so proud of our team!” One staff member describes her favorite: “You have a crazy day of documentation — I’m picking you up a coffee, what kind?” Isn’t that cool? Additionally, the team notices that this therapy leader is often the last department head to leave the building and is frequently caught volunteering after hours to do games and activities for the residents.

How has your therapy leader shown unwavering dedication to bettering your therapy team? Facility? And quality of life for the residents?
This therapy leader is described as the Michael Jordan of Rehab, making an immediate impact from the start. In fact, the rehab program has grown tremendously through the tireless efforts of this leader in supporting and facilitating education and training of the many new program offerings. This explosive growth has led the facility to add a second therapy gym. Furthermore, communication between therapy and nursing has been dramatically improved by the rollout of several communications so that both know the patients individualized needs. Therapy can communicate with nursing through “Emojis of Care” while nursing can fill out a “Hey Therapy” card to let therapy know if any resident has had a change in functional level, strength, balance, etc.

How has your therapy leader stepped up in the face of adversity and shown leadership in times of turmoil?
This facility was one of the first Ensign affiliates, as well as one of the first nursing homes in her region, to have a COVID-19 outbreak. Little was known about COVID at the time, and many residents/staff were sick. This therapy leader led by example, through exhibiting unconditional strength, love and courage.