My Hospital, My Home, My Heart

The Buffalo News published an article by Darlene Schrantz, RN, BSN, former director of patient care services. She shared what she submitted with BCH and we are glad to share it with you.

Darlene Schrantz, RN, BSNMy hospital sits on a well-traveled country road in rural Erie County. It draws in patients from Arcade to Gowanda and everywhere in between. They visit to get healthy, to stay healthy, and to heal what ails them.

I call Bertrand Chaffee Hospital “my hospital” with good reason. I started my first-and-only nursing job there 45 years ago and spent my entire career caring for patients as a nurse and leading the nursing staff as a manager.

Before I retired in March, I clocked in tens of thousands of hours at the “Gem on the Hill” that became my home away from home. My husband was a teacher during the day, and I worked many evening and overnight shifts as we raised our children, Matt and Susan. Matt has a special connection to BCH, as he was the first patient transported by Mercy Flight to Springville when he was an infant. On that occasion, I was able to be their first flight nurse as well!

I saw so many changes as a nurse on the front lines of healthcare. We watched as technology made equipment smaller, faster and more accurate. Computers changed the way we interacted with patient charts and with each other. Inpatient stays became shorter. Advances were made in medications and treatments. And being in the maternity unit, I eventually saw women who had been born at BCH having children of their own.

I can also say what didn’t change. A nurse’s best tools are the ones he or she is born with. Eyes can monitor a patient’s condition. Ears can hear what patients and family members are saying. And a simple touch can let a patient know that they are in good hands. That’s the advice I brought with me when I started nursing, and that’s what I tell anyone looking to work in the healthcare field.

Words weren’t enough to express how delighted I was to learn that my hospital received an $11.3 million award from New York State to invest in imaging equipment and space for primary care. To me, that was confirmation after a lifetime of work that my hospital has the tools and the team to keep my community healthy.

The funding that New York State is providing for my hospital’s future is incredible. But it would not have happened without careful planning. Under the leadership of CEO Nils Gunnersen, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital looked ahead to the future of healthcare and saw some challenging times ahead.
With input from doctors, nurses and patients, my hospital made a series of investments that established primary care and cardiology services. Those decisions transformed our small hospital into the central venue for healthcare that it is today.

I take a long walk down Main Street and through the village of Springville nearly every morning. Each time, I am virtually guaranteed to see someone I know who has been cared for at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital. That’s the strength of my hospital. That’s the purpose of my hospital. And that’s the future of my hospital.

I like to tell people that if I were born a thousand times, I’d always want to be a nurse. I’m still a nurse, and I’ll always be a nurse. I am enjoying life now with a focus on being a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a friend. When my neighbors need healthcare, I know my hospital is there for them. And I know that my husband and I can depend on it for our medical needs as we enjoy a long and well-deserved retirement.

Department Spotlight: Physical Therapy

The Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Physical Therapy Department is here to walk with patients on their road to recovery from injury, illness, surgery or chronic conditions.

Mary Lou Wright, PT, manages the PT Department and has seen patients at BCH for 42 years. Her team works with patients to relieve pain, restore movement, increase strength, improve balance and reduce fall risk. Outpatient therapy can be a few sessions or can last for several months.

“Our main goal with our patients is to get them back to their normal routine,” said Wright. “For some that means getting back to athletics or strenuous physical activity and for others that means being comfortable in their everyday activities, hobbies or work tasks.” She continued, “It’s all about quality of life, and that is different for each person.”

“Balance, strength and movement are the core of physical therapy,” said Emily King, a Doctor of Physical Therapy. “We are able to guide patients through exercises and give them practical tips to use as they resume their activities…The education process is vital, as patients then understand the importance of following through with recommendations once formal PT is ended.”

The department also provides services to in-patients on the medical-surgical floor. “For inpatients, we are able to evaluate their function and help the providers determine the appropriate discharge plan,” said Wright. “This could include discharge to home, short-term rehab, a skilled nursing facility, or possibly home PT services or outpatient therapy.”

When a provider prescribes physical therapy, patients have the freedom to choose where to go for treatment. “We encourage you to consider the local resource of Bertrand Chaffee Hospital’s PT department,” said King. “We are open 10 hours a day Monday through Friday for your convenience.”

To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call (716) 592-2871 ext. 1262.

Emily King, DPT, Sherry Stevens, Ronalyn Kassel, Mary Lou Wright, PT

Family, Friends, Food and Fun at Employee Summer Picnic

What a Saturday! Dozens of BCH and JBR employees and hundreds of family members and friends turned out for a fun-filled picnic at Sprague Brook Park on August 19. The activities started before noon and continued until almost dusk. Ping-pong, kan-jam, washers, a vigorous game of volleyball, and an assortment of kids and dogs made the day exactly what we wanted it to be, which was a memorable event that brought #teamchaffee together.

Thank you to all of the employees who helped with set up, food prep, manning the grill and clean up!

We will add pictures from the day on our Facebook page and here on our web site; please share your pictures too with

Congratulations, Amber Kohn, RN

At its July meeting, the BCH Foundation gave a scholarship to Amber Kohn, RN, to apply to her educational expenses. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Alfred University, and is a nurse in the BCH emergency department. She previously worked on the medical-surgical floor at BCH as a registered nurse and in the ED as a nursing assistant.

The Elizabeth Dedrick Scholarship Fund is a way to support BCH and JBR employees as they pursue degrees and training, that they can then bring to their career in caring for patients and residents.

Congratulations, Amber!

Department Spotlight: Medical-Surgical Department

The inpatient care provided on Bertrand Chaffee Hospital’s second floor forms the core of healthcare services in Springville. For recovery from a serious illness, ailment or injury, a stay at “the Gem on the Hill” is one service among many available at our community hospital.

The culture of a hospital stay has changed over the years. Weeks of recuperation in an inpatient setting used to be the norm. Today, there is an emphasis on recovering at home in consultation with one’s primary care provider.

A shift in inpatient stays at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital has been the introduction of a hospitalist program. Hospitalists are physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who manage patient care during their time “on the floor.” They coordinate medications, tests, treatment, education and discharge as a team with respiratory therapists, physical therapists, a pharmacist, social worker and family members to aid patients as they heal. Add to that a first-class nursing team and BCH patients are in good and caring hands.

“Our nursing staff understands that no one looks forward to being in the hospital,” said Donelle Thomas, RN, medical-surgical nurse manager. “We want our patients and their families to be as comfortable as possible as they recover, and that they’re prepared to continue to heal and resume normal activities once they’re released.”

With support from the BCH Foundation and donors like the BCH Women’s Association, Cordelian Club and Springville-Griffith Community Education Foundation, the hospital has invested in new inpatient beds, vital signs equipment and room renovations.

Marion Igel: 20 Years as a BCH Volunteer

For a woman like Marion Igel of Boston, volunteering is seen in terms of a commitment to a job. She started as a transport volunteer at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and its Physical Therapy Department on June 18, 1997. And at the end of this June, twenty years later, Igel has kept that commitment to the patients of BCH.

After retiring from the banking industry and roles at the “Big E” (Erie County Savings Bank), Igel looked for a way to fill her time. Her second-oldest sister was volunteer at Our Lady of Victory, and later at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. Igel lived in Boston, she wanted to find something closer to home.  She called Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, and was soon connected with the PT department. Her assignment: for one day a week, spend six hours transporting patients to physical therapy appointments from the Jennie B. Richmond Nursing Home and the medical-surgical floor of BCH.

“It’s the people that have kept me volunteering all these years,” explained Igel. “I grew attached, especially to some of the residents at the Jennie B.”

Igel continued, “Volunteering and helping people made me feel good, and I made great friends along the way.”

Mary Lou Wright, director of the Physical Therapy Department, explained, “Marion has put in miles of walking over the years, transporting patients and running interdepartmental errands.” Wright added, “Volunteers can ‘walk away’ at any time…Marion chose to stay, and we have been very fortunate to have her as part of our team, and to know and love her as part of our family.”

Igel has a son in Texas and a daughter who lives just a few minutes away in Boston (NY), with five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She said that she would tell future volunteers at BCH about the empathy involved in being a hospital volunteer: “Be devoted and learn to associate yourself with the patients…one day you could be in that position.”


Department Spotlight: Emergency Department

The people who work in the Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Emergency Department have the distinction of being able to say that they are part of one of the most valuable teams in our community.

As a registered nurse and nurse manager for the department, Penny Gardner, RN says that the reliability of emergency care at BCH is stronger than ever. “It’s the only place that is open every minute of every day, and we never turn anyone away,” she explained.

Just as there is no such thing as a typical day in the ED, there is no typical patient either. “Every day is completely different,” said Gardner. “But every day we come to work we know we are going to be able to help our neighbors.”

Most people don’t realize the length and depth of experience that BCH ED nurses have. Just five of the 23 nurses have a total of 130 years of nursing experience at BCH. Some have decades’ more experience at other facilities. “I am astonished by the commitment these nurses have shown throughout their career,” explained Gardner. “We are lucky to have that kind of allegiance in this small community.”

Emergency care at BCH includes the nursing staff and providers who cover the ED 24 hours a day. That doesn’t count the lab techs and imaging personnel who are ready to perform immediate tests, and the registration clerks, hospitalists and medical-surgical nurses available to admit patients.

It also doesn’t include the air medical transport crews from Mercy Flight, who can rapidly transfer patients to a higher level of care once stabilized at BCH. The ED’s connection with Mercy Flight stretches back more than 35 years. It became even more powerful with the construction of a helicopter hangar and ground transport base for Mercy EMS in 2016.

Healthcare professionals who gravitate toward emergency medicine are usually people who want to be on the frontline, ready and willing to take care of whatever comes through that door. “Emergency medicine means having the ability to take care of a severely injured patient and the family member at the bedside,” Gardner continued. “And then minutes later, we walk into another room with our entire focus on that next patient; we are truly a special breed.”


BCH Women’s Association Installation Dinner

BCH Women's Association Officers 2017-18

BCH Women’s Association Officers 2017-18

The Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Women’s Association held its annual installation dinner on June 7 at the Apple Dumplin in Springville. Members capped off a year of fundraising and activities with a donation to the Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Foundation to support the purchase of a vein viewer for the Emergency Department.

This continues the strong tradition of the BCH Women’s Association in supporting clinical equipment purchases and building improvements at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and the Jennie B. Richmond Nursing Home. Jennifer Siragusa, RN, director of patient care services, accepted the gift on behalf of the hospital and foundation.

From left: BCH Women’s Association Officers 2017-18: Secretary Diane Fleckenstein, Vice President Lori Beeman, President Karen Ritenour, Vice President Lisa Yaeger and Treasurer Beth Bolt


Department Spotlight: Primary Care Center

The word “primary” means “of chief importance.” It’s no surprise that primary care is at the center of the healthcare system. The preventive care provided by this service is key to achieving and maintaining good health.

Rural communities do not always have access to family practice and internal medicine. Bertrand Chaffee Hospital established its Primary Care Center in 2010 to respond to community need for primary care services. Four physicians, three physician assistants, two nurse practitioners, nurses and staff are part of a team that welcome patients of all ages.

“Primary care is the first line of care for most patients’ health needs,” said Dr. Wnuk. “We work with individuals and their families to manage health conditions and improve quality of life.” Dr. William Wnuk joined the practice in 2015. BCH has recruited medical professionals to expand access to essential medical services. That includes primary care, but also related specialty services like general surgery and cardiology.

“I would describe our Primary Care Center as interactive and patient-oriented,” said Kim Bockhahn, LPN. “We do our best to serve patients and their needs, from scheduling appointments and managing prescriptions to referring to specialists as necessary.”

Twenty-seven employees work in the Primary Care Center. Even more individuals provide support behind the scenes in medical records and coding, and billing. From the front desk to the back office, the PCC team focuses on high quality care in a comfortable setting with compassionate staff.

The BCH Primary Care Center accepts new patients and all major insurances. Call for an appointment at (716) 592-8140.

“If I were born 100 times… I’d always want to be a nurse.”

Darlene Schrantz, RNOn an April day in 1972, a nursing school graduate walked through the front doors of Bertrand Chaffee Hospital. She sat on a wooden bench outside of then-CEO Roger Ford’s door – a bench that is still in use at the front of the hospital – waiting for an interview for a medical/surgical nurse position.

That new nurse was Darlene Tworek – soon to be Darlene Schrantz. And within six months, she would be married to her husband Fred, relocated to Springville, and started on a career in nursing at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital. Little did she know that BCH was the place where she would spend the next four decades. Schrantz will complete her tenure as a full-time nursing administrator at the end of March, opening up a new chapter in her life.

But to describe the previous chapters, she and her husband Fred – a social studies teacher at Springville-Griffith Institute – grew up within blocks of each other in Dunkirk, which is where Darlene first got a look at the medical profession.

“In high school [Cardinal Mindszenty], I had a part-time job as ‘cart girl’ at Brooks Memorial Hospital, serving dinners on the floor for three hours each evening,” Schrantz explained. “I loved it – how it felt to talk to patients, and to be part of their care.”

A guidance counselor recommended that she pursue nursing education at Sisters of Charity in Buffalo, where she received her diploma in 1972. By the time she took her boards later that year, she was a full-fledged, full-time nurse at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital.

By 1980, Schrantz had moved to the Critical Care Unit, a four-bed unit for patients who needed a higher level of care. In 1985, a manager position opened in “OB,” the obstetrics floor, and Schrantz was ready for the responsibility.

“After working in the CCU for so long, I was always prepared for the worst to happen, and I brought some of that perspective to OB,” said Schrantz. “I learned so much in that unit, but I think I made incremental and meaningful changes in the OB department, too.

“With long-time nurses like Lorayne Proctor, RN, we trained nurses on intravenous [IV] starts, and made sure warmers were always ready,” she continued. “While I was there, 100 percent of our OB nurses were certified in NALS – neonatal life support – which was a great achievement for our small hospital.” Schrantz noted that she had many opportunities to receive training at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, and was about to bring techniques and knowledge from that larger facility to our rural one.

Barb Childs, RN worked alongside Schrantz for many years, and remarked on her intelligence, fairness and compassion. “She was always conscientious in carrying out her job,” said Childs. “When she moved from CCU [critical care unit] to OB, she was determined that she would learn everything about OB and earn the respect of the nurses in that department…and she did.” Childs added, “I’m proud to have her as a friend.”

During the hospital’s expansion in 1989, Schrantz explained how nurses were part of the building process. “The architects included us the design discussions, showing us the blueprints and asking for our opinions of what we wanted to see,” she said.

That’s just one example where Schrantz was given “a seat at the table.” She feels fortunate that there were frequent and constant opportunities for the perspective of the nursing staff to be recognized and incorporated into hospital growth. “At major decision points for the hospital, from labor negotiations to adding new services, I’ve been glad that nurses have been listened to and appreciated.”

By 1993, the children she and her husband had raised in Springville were young adults, leaving Schrantz with some free time. Schrantz made the choice to earn a bachelor of science in nursing, taking courses at the University at Buffalo from 1993-1998. “I learned about management, budgeting, writing successful proposals and how to motivate clinical staff,” she said.

Schrantz’s family and children were by her side at every stage of her career at BCH. At the start, her son Matt had the distinction of being the first Mercy Flight of WNY patient in 1981 – flown to BCH with Schrantz as the first unofficial flight nurse. Matt took a position in community outreach for Mercy Flight during college, and a newspaper clipping from the time cites how he planned to go to law school. Today, Matt is a lawyer in Albany, where he lives with his wife, Cara.

Schrantz’s daughter Susan (Susie) pursued a career in teaching, and settled in Virginia with her husband John. Susie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, and Schrantz supported her daughter throughout her treatments and hospitalizations. She passed away from cancer in 2016, leaving behind two children, and Schrantz’s large extended family to grieve the loss. In her retirement, Schrantz will have more time to visit with her grandchildren.

“At each step of my career I’ve been given more responsibility, and everyone here has been there to help, not stand in the way.” Schrantz described the response from the community while the hospital navigated a bankruptcy filing as an example of that: “People and businesses stepped forward with raffles and spaghetti dinners, contributing hard-earned money to save their hospital.”

She continued, “I believe there is an energy in the leadership team that will keep this place working for the community…BCH has been responsive to community needs, from reducing inpatient beds to adding primary care and specialist services – we’ll be here for a long time.”

Schrantz brought her clinical and management experience to hospital expansions in 2002, for the Emergency Department, and 2010, with the renovation of the third floor to accommodate the Primary Care Center. “My last few years here have been really fun.”

After more than four decades as a nurse, Schrantz is happy to offer some words of advice to nurses and aspiring medical professionals: “Don’t ever forget to look at your patient – use all your senses, especially touch, to understand how they feel.”

Jennifer Siragusa, RN, who has stepped into the director of patient care services role that Schrantz established, had this to share. “Darlene has had a tremendous influence on my nursing career – she gave me my first nursing job in 1999.” Siragusa continued, “As a leader in the healthcare field, Darlene taught me that quality care is the number one priority for nurses and for our hospital…she continues to be an advocate for her nursing staff and is a very compassionate nurse and manager…I aspire to be as great a leader as she is.”

“I appreciated the opportunities, chances and challenges at BCH,” Schrantz said. And there’s no other job Schrantz would rather do: “I’ve grown up in this job and I’ve loved what I’ve done the entire time…If I were born 100 times, I’d always want to be a nurse.”