December 18, 2023
• The work of two Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham staffers did not go unnoticed this year. They garnered recognition both inside and outside the organization.
Northeastern University’s Trailblazer Award went to BID Needham’s Chief Nursing Officer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kathy Davidson, who graduated from the college in 1979.
Phlebotomist Laura Garrant received the Employee of the Year at the hospital’s Recognition Awards ceremony.
Of the approximately 1,000 BID-Needham staffers, Garrant proved to be a stand-out.
A 15-year employee, Garrant was chosen as one of 12 nominees for the distinction, thanks in part to a recommendation from co-worker Janice Samsen. From there, a panel decided on Garrant as its sole honoree.
From overseeing a 32-person team and eight off-sites, to running the hospital’s therapeutic phlebotomy program, to managing customer service and care, Garrant deserves the recognition, Samsen wrote in her nomination. In her view, Garrant “exemplifies all the core values of the hospital.”
“She works really hard every day, comes in early, stays late, covers weekend shifts,” Samsen wrote, “[and] when there’s a call out, she comes in.”
The Therapeutic Phlebotomy program, in which patients with certain diagnoses have more blood drawn than usual, is “one of my favorite parts of the job,” Garrant said.
“I get to spend a little bit more time with the patients, and I’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the years,” Garrant said, “and I really enjoy that.”
Before joining BID, Garrant was homeschooling her two children and looking for a position that offered a flexible schedule. For a few years, Garrant taught during the day and worked at night. Once her kids reached middle school, they went back to school full-time, and Garrant became a full-time staffer, taking over the therapeutic phlebotomy program.
Garrant’s job, needless to say, involves “wearing multiple hats,” said Julie Roby, the administrative lab director and Garrant’s supervisor. The pair have worked together for the past five years, but prior to that, Roby herself was named BID Needham’s 2017 Employee of the Year.
When the pandemic compromised patients’ safety, Garrant and Roby offered drive-thru phlebotomy services, drawing blood outside. While many experienced burnout due to COVID, Roby said Garrant boasts a renewed confidence as she tackles unknowns and completes tasks “without hesitation.”
Garrant’s willingness to help no matter the circumstances, as well as her compassion and resilience, make her deserving of the honor.
“She just does anything without hesitation,” Roby said, “and I’m really happy for her that she was able to receive this award.”
While she was unable to attend the Recognition Awards ceremony — due to her third bout of COVID — she FaceTimed in to watch remotely.
Garrant sang the hospital’s praises, particularly its supportive atmosphere. Garrant said she’s taken free courses at Bunker Hill Community College thanks to her employer.
“It’s a great place to work, a lot of support,” Garrant said, “and you really do feel like a part of the community because so many of the patients that you see, you see repeatedly over the years.”
Nursing came naturally for Davidson, who volunteered as a candy striper — a young, female hospital assistant — before volunteering at a nursing home in high school. She graduated with her bachelor’s in nursing from Northeastern and started as an ICU nurse at Boston’s Carney Hospital. Davidson only worked as a nurse for a couple years before she was promoted to the nurse manager of the ICU.
From there, Davidson led a number of other departments at hospitals across New England, most recently Norwood Hospital, before coming to Needham in 2014.
Looking back on her more than four decades in nursing, Davidson said she has plenty of which to be proud.
Davidson worked through a nursing strike at Carney and the AIDS epidemic, but the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, begot “the most challenging times in my career.” With a number of young patients dying from the disease, Davidson recalls having a freezer in the parking lot. In the first few months of the pandemic, 26 people died, she said.
Health care workers stepped up to become heroes, Davidson said, donning PPE and masks even when little was known about COVID. As a hospital leader, Davidson rose to the occasion, realizing staff needed “a role model and a cheerleader,” she said.
In the midst of loss and tribulation, nurses received the spotlight — the community banged on pots and pans at night, fed them and wrote them letters, Davidson said.
“There’s always something that comes out of it that makes us better and stronger, and I think it has,” she said.
Her typical day at BID-Needham involves lots of visits to nurses on the floors and check-ins with patients, as well as town meetings and business-related matters. Facing staffing shortages, overcrowding and sick patients, Davidson said she spends “a lot of time saying ‘thank you.’” She loves mentoring future leaders, she said.
“It’s been difficult to find joy in nursing since the pandemic, so I take that very seriously,” Davidson said. “You want people to be driving to work and wanting to be here, and it can be tough.”
Davidson’s seasoned health care experience and personality kept the hospital operational in the face of that adversity, BID-Needham President John Fogarty said.
“She has a backbone of steel,” Fogarty said, “but she is a very compassionate person who relates well to staff. I don’t know how we would have gotten through that pandemic period without the strong leadership of her and the team that she recruited.”
Nursing apparently runs in the family — Davidson’s daughter Kaitlin went to Villanova University to become a nurse and attended her mother’s award ceremony.
“It’s fun because we can speak the same language, and I was able to be supportive to her as she started her career,” Davidson said of their relationship. “She’s probably my biggest fan.”