Karen Rumo: 2019 Caregiver of the Year
As a psychiatric technician, Karen Rumo provides therapeutic care and monitors the conditions of her patients on 2 East, one of three adult units at Spring Harbor Hospital. She helps patients with various activities around daily living, as well as teaching healthy coping skills, de-escalating during crisis and accompanying patients to activities and appointments. From the very beginning, Rumo has always been aware of the importance of the work she was doing, and what a difference being warm and kind can make.
Recently awarded the Maine Hospital Association’s Caregiver of the Year, Rumo has spent more than three decades caring for children and adults struggling with mental illness. Her tenure dates back to Jackson Brook Institute where she was instrumental in creating one of the first children’s units. Throughout her career she has been known as a staunch supporter of individuals with mental illness.
“No matter the age, when a patient arrives in crisis, we are the family and the support they need,” Rumo said. “Sometimes, this is the second or third time we are seeing a patient. No matter what, my first thought is always, ‘If this person was my family member, how would I want them to be treated?’ And that’s how you treat people.”
And that approach goes a long way, especially with the rise in hospital population suffering from more acute co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
“Karen has a way of using her smile and cheerful personality to bring a smile to even the most agitated patient,” said Danielle Cline, Spring Harbor Hospital Nurse Manager and Rumo’s supervisor. “She has a keen sense of how a patient is doing and can anticipate what their needs are, so for those patients who are disorganized, they don’t have to try and find the words. She also has a built in alert system that can read the pulse of a milieu in a second and she can work with her 2 East team to help turn the atmosphere into something positive.”
Rumo is aware that everyone has a story and they are doing the best they possibly can within that story at that moment. Regardless of the reason why a patient is at Spring Harbor Hospital, Rumo has no judgement.
“I believe every day that I can make a difference in someone’s life,” Rumo said. “I can’t always fix them or fix the situation, but if I just listen and meet them where they’re at, patients feel seen and heard and it makes all the difference. The stigma of mental illness makes so many people feel invisible and our job is to show them they are seen and heard. They're a person before their illness. They're not a diabetic, they're a person with diabetes. They're not a schizophrenic, they're a person with schizophrenia. And they are way more than their illness."