Written by Heidi Baumstark. Courtesy photos.
The concept of a team exists when a group of people come together to accomplish a desired goal. At The Medical Team, Inc. (TMT), every member stars in the “team” concept, providing expert medical services and compassionate care to all their clients.
Headquartered in Reston, Va., TMT also has offices in Louisiana, Texas, and Michigan. They provide everything from 24/7 skilled medical attention, to visits for help with personal care and daily living activities, typically following hospitalization. TMT is dedicated to supporting patients and their loved ones, providing care with genuine compassion, skill, and respect. Every year, they help thousands of patients live at home as independently as possible.
All this requires a dedicated, interdisciplinary team, including a physician, registered nurse, nurse aides, chaplain, social worker, pharmacist, music therapist, and trained volunteers with oversight from a hospice administrator. Laurie Chalice of Haymarket, Va. has been with TMT’s nursing team since 2014.
“I was inspired by my mom who was also a nurse,” Chalice says. “I always had that caring nature for people; my mom said this was my calling. In 2016, my boss asked if I’d be interested in hospice, so I thought I would try it. It was new for me since I was used to skilled nursing, but when I started hospice, I loved it.”
If a patient moves from skilled nursing requirements to needing hospice, TMT ensures the patient’s complete continuity of care. “Some patients I work with as a skilled nurse — and if they move into hospice — I’m still there,” Chalice says. “Seeing similar faces is very reassuring for the patient and family members to have that consistency; there’s a real bonding that takes place.”
With TMT, the team a patient starts with is the team the patient stays with. If the patient passes, bereavement care is offered for 13 months to the family or anyone in that setting who cared for them. TMT’s social worker also helps with funeral arrangements and can coordinate assistance from local and state agencies, including practical services like Meals on Wheels.
Many of Chalice’s patients are in Loudoun, Fauquier, Prince William, and Fairfax counties. Wendy Stewart of Middleburg spoke about the care provided for her late husband, David Stewart. After a head injury in March 2019, he became a patient of TMT for about a year.
“David went into hospice and passed away in March ; he was 93,” Stewart says. “We had a very positive experience. The Medical Team came about once a week. The people were really nice and David liked them all very much. They made it as pleasant as possible.” Their social worker still calls about once a month and sends materials about dealing with loss.
Chalice can relate. “I was there when my mom took her last breath on August 3, 2019; I was actually her hospice nurse,” she says.
Dr. Jennifer Winegarden, TMT’s medical director, runs the Reston office. She, too, has had personal experience with hospice. She was already a physician, but after the death of her father, she dedicated herself solely to providing hospice care.
The Medical Team (TMT) staff, left to right: Christy Roberts, nursing team; Laurie Chalice, nursing team; Jennifer Toms, hospice administrator; Rolande Obei, nursing team; Suzanne Andress-Udall, social worker.
“It was a turning point. And I wanted to make a difference,” Winegarden says. Since 2014, she has helped TMT roll out their hospice program. “What’s special about us is we can literally move on a dime. Companies that are more top-heavy — that’s harder to do. We’re very patient-centric and ask, ‘What’s bringing the patient the most comfort?’”
Along with being board-certified, Winegarden has a master’s degree in pain medicine, dispensing cutting-edge, individualized medical treatment to each patient. Actively involved in research with several published articles, she looks at the specific pain and tries to avoid opioids — while still controlling the pain — so the patient can enjoy the quality of life of whatever time they have left.
Who is it for? TMT is a free benefit to anyone covered by Medicare or Medicaid. For younger patients not yet on Medicare or Medicaid, private insurance is accepted. Medicare will pay for skilled nursing services when a physician has deemed that a patient requires skilled nursing care. If a patient isn’t ready yet for hospice, TMT can still come and supply medical equipment such as a hospital bed, bedside commode, and durable medical equipment. When the patient, family member, or physician has determined that the patient is no longer seeking medical care, then the physician sends an order to the hospice of the patient’s or family member’s choice. Hospitals typically have hospice in-house; but there is a choice, and people can request another hospice group.
Winegarden explained that virtually every family who has had hospice care for a loved one wishes they had done it sooner. Some patients live longer because they don’t have to leave the house all the time for medical appointments. “There’s such a relief to know there’s a team who has come into the family’s personal circle who can handle almost everything by coming to them,” Winegarden says. “They’re loving their loved one by bringing in hospice. It’s a beautiful benefit.”
Chalice recalls one of her patients, Fawn Kemp of Haymarket, who recently lost her father. “Accepting the reality that our loved one was ready for hospice was one of the most difficult decisions,” Kemp says. “Laurie went above and beyond anything we expected. She helped us with the notifications we had to make and prepared my dad for his last journey. It takes a special person to be there every day doing the work she does. Months have passed and Laurie and other medical team workers have kept in touch and continue to give my mom support. Even if it’s coming for a cup of coffee.”
One way to honor the lives of passed loved ones was at a recent Butterfly Release event TMT held on Oct. 1 at Larmax Homes, an assisted living facility in McLean, Va. Family members gathered as butterflies were released. A butterfly bush was planted, so butterflies could annually return. A plaque was presented, which reads, “Butterflies appear when angels are near.”
“I found my calling in hospice,” Chalice says. “It’s a true honor when the family has asked you to be there. My advice? Love your loved one — focus on them. That’s our mission: taking care of that person, respecting that person and their time, and their family.”
Founded in 1978, TMT is a diversified, privately held healthcare services company serving patients at home or in senior communities. TMT’s family of companies includes The Medical Team, Inc., Med Team, Inc., and The Medical Team Personal Care Services; each is licensed and certified.
Truly, a team effort. ML
To learn more about The Medical Team, visit medicalteam.com.
Published in the December 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.