Danielle Washington has climbed the career ladder at the Residential Treatment Facility for Adults (RTFA), located on the South 9th Street campus—from intern, clinician, and team lead to supervisor, a position she has served in for the last seven months.
Collectively, her colleagues say that Washington exemplifies all the Pittsburgh Mercy values—Reverence, Commitment to the Poor, Safety, Justice, Stewardship, Integrity, Community, and Courage. For her hard work through a COVID quarantine, dealing with short staffing, and a maternity leave of the RTFA’s co-supervisor, Danielle has been named Pittsburgh Mercy’s February Colleague of the Month.
In a nutshell, Washington’s duties consist of meeting with hospital personnel regarding potential RTFA clients; monitoring symptoms of persons served; meeting with licensed clinicians to discuss schedules, themes, and ideas; assuring that clinicians feel comfortable and confident in their decisions; holding discharge planning meetings; and arranging for wraparound services before persons served re-enter the community.
Washington had been in the supervisor role just a few months when her co-supervisor went on maternity leave.
“During that time in December and January, we were pretty much on quarantine,” she says. “It was all hands on deck. There’s only so much one person can do. ”
Because she had served as a clinician, Washington says she experienced firsthand what is difficult for them and what causes friction. To be fair, she looked at tasks and delegated the work.
“As a supervisor, I could do more about it,” she says. “I’m always open to talk. They see it as a positive.”
COVID-19 created a lot of anxiety on the unit. Washington says she tried to be “a supportive and stable figure.” With games and movies for entertainment, colleagues tried to make it “as fun and safe as possible.” The surge in late 2021/early 2022 resulted in colleagues getting sick, so Washington says the staff did what they could to keep persons served and each other as safe as possible.
“We tried to make it as fun as we could, given the circumstances,” she says. “We tried to make the small moments count.”
Because persons served at the RTFA can leave the site on independent passes, they are once again participating in 12-step programs and other therapeutic activities in the community, now that COVID positivity rates are down.
“The goal of our program is community integration,” Washington says. “I’m very, very glad that they are able to do that again.”
How does she unwind at the end of the workday? Washington says she watches “trash reality TV” and relies on family and friends for perspective. Although Washington knew she was being nominated for the Colleague of the Month Award, she was surprised to receive it.
“It was really nice to see what everyone said about me,” Washington adds.
Here’s what Washington’s colleagues wrote in their nominations:
Heather Birch, clinician: “Danielle is a rock star boss. She is constantly on-call and always professional. Danielle has an open door policy and she doesn’t micromanage. Danielle is willing to help and goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
Denise Schwartz, clinician: “Danielle has stepped into this role as a capable and willing hard worker who leads by example and with consistency. She upholds the mission of Pittsburgh Mercy as she advocates for the mental health community in crisis and as she directs and supports the RTFA employees to work together to give excellent care and guidance to our residents.”
Jennifer DeArmond, registered nurse: “RTFA has two supervisors and when Danielle became the supervisor, the other supervisor went on maternity leave. Danielle has showed great leadership and grace in her new position.”
Nicolas Bozzo-Duarte, clinician: “Danielle has done very well as our new supervisor especially during our other supervisor’s maternity leave, continual short staffing, and quarantine periods w/residents. Danielle continues to maintain her qualities regardless of promotion.”
Arianna Iliff, clinician: “In short, my supervisor Danielle is carrying this entire unit on her shoulders right now, and she deserves to be recognized. Every day I see her making tough decisions about persons served in the name of getting them top quality care. She shows up every day wearing about five different hats, ensuring safety on our unit by keeping it well-staffed, facilitating admissions and discharges, and guiding her staff to be better clinicians every day. In the context of COVID-19, including a month-long lockdown, or when shifts were difficult to staff due to individuals resigning, there have been times where she was the only available supervisor on-call. Danielle shows up day after day after day, and I look up to her for that.”