Meet our South Central region OEAA winner: Fawn Defense

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Fawn Defense, a registered nurse at Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, always seems to have the right words to make patients and colleagues feel uplifted. Generous with her praises and wearing a smile from morning to night, colleagues know her as someone who always finds the good side of a sticky situation. For this reason, Defense was recently recognized as the company’s South Central region winner for the Outstanding Employee Achievement Award.

Taking Pride in Her Achievements

Defense is drawn to personal and professional achievement, big or small. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, healthcare workers were under incredible amounts of stress. While some nurses struggled under the pressure of the pandemic, Defense set out to refine her craft by becoming a certified rehabilitation registered nurse (CRRN). In June of 2021, this dream became a reality.

She even wanted to share her new education by precepting senior level nursing students in the community as they prepared for graduation. Whenever Defense learns something new, she is eager to share the knowledge with others and support her colleagues’ growth. In a time of PPE and social distancing, Defense reached out on personal levels with colleagues and strangers alike.

“Fawn sets a great example for her colleagues. She knows the hospital, and she knows how to really connect with people,” said Michael Bartell, Area CEO of Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Shelby County.

Her Commitment to Patients Shines Through

In the rehabilitation care setting, patients face a variety of challenges as they recover from illness or injury and regain their independence. There was once a patient with a low dietary intake who struggled to get enough nutrition. When in-house meals went uneaten, Defense decided to try something new and asked about the patient’s favorite restaurant. Soon, an order arrived at the front desk with the patient’s name attached. This act of kindness was exactly what the patient needed to increase their appetite and determination to improve.

Other examples come to mind, as well. In Alabama, the words “snow day” can cause anxiety and bring the city to a grinding halt. During a snow event in 2021 when many employees called out of work, Defense arrived at the hospital on time, with an overnight bag in tow and ready to start the day. This very long work day was filled with many obstacles as staffing adjustments were made, but she stayed the course and helped turn a dark, winter morning into a bright and positive day. Her priority is always to ensure patients have the care they need.

‘When Can We Start?’

Defense is described a go-getter who springs into action before she’s asked. It’s not uncommon to see her running down the hallway to check on a patient when the bed alarm or call light sounds, even if that particular patient was not assigned to her. If a quality metric decreases, Defense is quick to rally her peers and encourage everyone to work together to fix the problem. Colleagues say her life motto seems to be, “When can we start?”

Above all, Defense’s passion for rehabilitation nursing inspires others to bring their very best effort to the workplace. She’s a natural caregiver who thrives on seeing other people succeed.

“Everything about her just screams that this is what she loves to do,” said OT colleague Rene Strong. “The compassion and the love she has for her job, for this company—it just shows in everything she does every day.”

Fawn Defense was named employee of the year at Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in 2021, and was nominated and chosen as the overall winner for Encompass Health’s South Central operating region.

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